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Published by the Author 



Copyright, 1922, 



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To the Pioneers 

and especially to the honored memory of 



Pioneer of Inyo and pioneer in endeavor 
for her moral as well as material growth 

This volume is dedicated 


CALIFORNIA has furnished probably more 
themes for books than has any other Ameri- 
can State. The easy-going romantic years of 
Mexican rule, the padres, the Argonauts, the 
golden era, the wonders of this Empire of the 
West, have had generous attention from both mas- 
ters and amateurs in prose and poetry, fact and 
fiction. The flood of writing hardly diminishes, 
for magazine literature and still more books add 
to it month by month. Yet few of the writers on 
California subjects look outside of the boundaries 
coined by a phrase-making politician, ''from Sis- 
kiyou to San Diego, from the Sierras to the sea." 
Even such historians as Bancroft and Hittell 
deemed it hardly worth their while to inquire into 
the amials of the borderlands, though the wilds 
were conquered through many hardships and 
wars bloodier than some on which volumes have 
been written. 

Those who ventured into the unknown regions 
seldom thought it worth while to set down for the 
future any extended record of their trials and 
achievements. While they lived history, it all 
came to them as part of the day's work. Being 
more familiar with implements of livelihood and 
of offense and defense than with the pen, they 



wrote little. Before a succeeding generation fully 
appreciated the closing scenes of a drama of high 
interest, most of the actors in it had gone on the 
journey pioneered when time began. Therefore 
much has been lost. 

This book's purpose is to preserve, particu- 
larly, the record of Inyo county earlier than 1870, 
when a printed record began. Gathering data for- 
some such purpose began more than twenty years 
ago, while many of the pioneers still lived. It was 
the author's good fortune to know personally 
every early-day Inyoite then in the county. Each 
of them gladly gave his help. Personal interviews 
when possible, and correspondence with those who 
had moved to other parts of the country, elicited 
their recollections. All narratives were checked 
and rechecked with each other and with other 
sources of information. Public records were 
searched, as were also the files of pioneer news- 
papers in different libraries. 

One of the most valuable sources of informa- 
tion was an extensive manuscript collection in the 
private library of Henry G. Hanks, in San Fran- 
cisco. Mr. Hanks was an assayer in San Carlos 
and Chrysopolis mining camps, Owens Valley, in 
1863. In later years he became State Mineralo- 
gist of California. He was a man of education, 
and when age caused his retirement from active 
labors his library received his whole attention. 
His interest in Owens Valley continuing, he kept 
and arranged many letters, diaries and other 
writings relating to this county's history. When 
the collection was examined for the purpose of 


this compilation, in 1902 or 1903, it had become 
an almost complete though disconnected history 
of the more strenuous pioneer years in Inyo. 

Everyone who took any prominent part in the 
Indian war has passed on. The Hanks library 
was burned in the fire of 1906. As those sources 
of information are thus forever lost, there is some 
justification in believing that a service was done 
in getting what they had to impart ; and also, that 
these chronicles, having that advantage, give the 
only fairly complete record of the county's begin- 
nings that can be compiled. 

Much of this material has been published in 
serial form in the Inyo Register. The idea of put- 
ting it into book form had been virtually aban- 
doned when in the spring of 1921 the Federation 
of Women's Chibs of Inyo County, desirous of 
having the re-^^ i-d preserved and made available, 
gave the publication their co-operation; and the 
Board of Supervisors later extended support that 
made the book a certainty. 

Material has been procured from more sources 
than can be fully noted here. A general list of 
those sources follows: 

Personal accounts by T. F. A. Connelly, Alney 
L. McGee, Barton McGee, S. G. Gregg, J. S. 
Broder, A. Van Fleet, Milo Page, Thomas W. Hill, 
John L. Bodle, Thomas E. Jones, Henry G. 
Hanks, T. H. Goodman, and others. 

Correspondence with L. A. Spitzer, J. A. 
Hubinger, F. W. Fickert, John C. Willett, Gen. 
J. H. Soper, Dr. S. G. George, William B. 
Daugherty, George Otis Smith (Director U. S. 


Geological Survey), the Smithsonian Institution, 
Willard D. Johnson, Dr. A. L. Kroeber (Curator 
Department of Ethnology, University of Cali- 

Many manuscripts in the collection of Henry 
G. Hanks. 

Articles by P. A. Chalfant, Mrs. J. W. Brier, 
C. L. Canfield, J. B. Colton, E. C. Atkinson, W. L. 
(Dad) Moore, and others. 

Files of the San Francisco Alta California, 
San Francisco Bulletin, San Francisco Call, 
Sacramento Union, Los Angeles News, Los An- 
geles Star, in some instances as early as 1852; 
also of the Inyo Independent, Inyo Eegister, 
Bakersfield Echo, and other papers of subsequent 
years containing narratives of pioneers. 

Addresses by Henry G. Hanks in San Fran- 
cisco in 1864 and by James E. Parker in Lone 
Pine July 4, 1876. 

Official reports of Warren Wasson and several 
other Indian agents; field notes of A. W. Von 
Schmidt's survey of Owens Valley; journals of 
the California Legislature; records of the Inde- 
pendence land office and of the Inyo county gov- 
ernment; and sundry other official documents, 

''Death Valley in '49," by W. L. Manley; 
''Death Valley," by J. R. Spear; "California 
Men in the War of the Eebellion," by R. H. 
Orton; "History of Nevada," by Thompson & 
West; histories of Kern, Tulare and San Ber- 
nardino counties ; ' ' Official Documents of the 38th 
Congress;" "The Panamint Indians," a govern- 
ment report by F. V. Coville; Bancroft's "Native 


Eaces;" Fremont's ''Memoirs;" "Botany of 
Death Valley." 

And many more not here set down. 

As the reader is to infer from a preceding sen- 
tence, the aim of this undertaking has been to 
collect Inyo history that has not been printed. 
The principal matters since 1870 are presented by 
subjects, rather than with special regard to their 
order of occurrence. 


Chapter I 
SOME GEOLOGICAL FACTS— most diversified 






Chapter II 




Chapter III 
NATIVE CUSTOMS — primitive tribes — bows and 


Chapter IV 






Chapter V 

INYO — jedediah smith 1825 — gold found at 
MONO lake — ogden 1831 — captain joe walker 
1832 — CHILES party 1842 — wagons abandoned 


Chapter VI 
DEATH VALLEY PARTY OP 1849— a trail 


Chapter VII 


— ^voN Schmidt's survey 1855-1856 — reserva- 



Chapter VIII 
COMING OF THE STOCKMEN— cattle driven 

through to aurora — VANSICKLE AND VAN 




Chapter IX 





Chapter X 



FIELD 106 

Chapter XI 
WHITES AGAIN BEATEN— Indian agent was- 


Chapter XII 

TEMPORARY PEACE— Indians in full posses- 
sion — MILITARY expedition CAMP INDEPEN- 



Chapter XIII 
FRESH OUTBREAKS — war medicine made — 




Chapter XIV 


Chapter XV 


MERRIAM'S thrilling ESCAPE 146 

Chapter XVI 







Chapter XVII 

MORE INDIAN TROUBLES— coso county au- 
thorized — political convention — piuTES start 





Chapter XVIII 


Chapter XIX 






Chapter XX 
TWO AFFAIRS OF 1871— convicts escaping 




2— Mar. 22. 


Chapter XXI 
EL TEMBLOR — the great earthquake of 1872 — 


— PROF. Whitney's observations — rebuilding 



Chapter XXII 
YEARS OF RAMPANT CRIME— inyo a refuge 




Chapter XXIII 
CERRO GORDO — inyo's greatest producer of 




Chapter XXIV 


Chapter XXV 





Chapter XXVI 





Chapter XXVII 
TRANSPORTATION — railroad talk always 





Chapter XXVIII 




Chapter XXIX 





Chapter XXX 

LOS ANGELES AQUEDUCT— reclamation ser- 

Eaton's purchases — aqueduct scheme re- 


Chapter XXXI 

Chapter XXXII 


APPENDIX A — OFFICERS of inyo county 33-1 

APPENDIX B — inyo's vote at general elections. 333 
APPENDIX C— altitudes of peaks 340 






No other equal area on this continent, probably 
no other on the earth's surface, equals Inyo 
county in diversified topography; for while Mt. 
Whitney, elevation 14,501 feet, highest peak of 
the States, stands on its western border, Death 
Valley, lowest of American land depressions, 427 
feet below sea level, is also within its boundaries. 
Nature has written here, in bold strokes, studies 
more fascinating than the little affairs of human- 
ity. It is worth while to glance briefly at what 
leading American geologists have deduced, and 
what they say of the making of this county of 
ours. Because we are doing so, and giving some 
attention to a few topics not strictly historical, 
this is ''The Story of Inyo" rather than its his- 
tory alone. 

An English geologist once declared the Ala- 
bama hills, near the base of the Sierras in south- 



ern Owens Valley, to be the oldest mountains on 
the continent. This has been so often accepted 
and repeated as fact that it should be set right. 
George Otis Smith, Director of the Geological 
Survey, pronounced the assertion to be wholly 
erroneous. He declared that while presumably 
some Archaean rocks are exposed in the Alabama 
hills, their elevation above the water is a com- 
paratively recent geologic event. 

^'Eecent" in this connection is a vague term, 
as we understand time. One geologist writes 
that ' ' the million of years will remain the time 
unit." Scientists guess the earth's age all the 
way from 20,000,000 to 90,000,000 years. So when 
the elevation of the Alabamas, or any other oc- 
currence, is credited to the "recent" geologic past 
it means a period of unknown remoteness. One 
who has examined this region says its successive 
events cannot be guessed even by ages. 

At the end of the Paleozoic period of world- 
building, an immense inland sea, comparable with 
the Mediterranean of the present, covered what 
we know as the Great Basin. Probably while 
other ranges to the eastward were forming, the 
Inyo Range and White Mountains (now usually 
considered as one range) arose, with a division 
between them, east of where Big Pine now is. 
Westerly, a plain sloped to the Pacific. A later 
convulsion of nature produced the Sierras; and 
Mt. Whitney's site and surroundings, previously 
a region of gentle slopes and lowlands, were ele- 
vated to their present or greater heights. Intense 
volcanic activity prevailed, of which abundant 


evidences appear in the Whitney country as well 
as many other places along the Sierras. 

The inland sea rose and fell many times. 
Geologist J. E. Spurr traced, in the Death Valley 
region, seven different changes of surface and pe- 
riods of volcanic action. The glacial coating came 
along, and to this at least one investigator defin- 
itely assigns a time 80,000 years ago. Eemnants 
of the ice capping, melted in the valleys and fed 
by streams from the mountains, formed four great 
lakes between the Eockies and the Sierra Ne- 
vadas. One of these was Lahontan, remnants of 
which are Walker Lake and other Nevada waters. 
Another filled Death Valley, Owens Valley and 
the Mojave desert. These evaporated in the 
course of time, leaving beds of precipitated salts 
in the deserts, and Owens Lake in Owens Valley. 

C. D. AValcott, former Director of the Geolog- 
ical Survey, gave the name of ''Waucobi" to the 
Owens Valley lake, apparently taking this title 
from an Indian word more commonly spelled 
''Waucoba." Traces of this lake are found along 
the White Mountains. Walcott determined, by 
the character of fossils and shells found along the 
mountain side up to an altitude of 3,000 feet 
above the valley's floor, that it was fresh water. 
He dismissed the theory that the lake was 3,000 
feet in depth, because there is no indication of any 
sufficient southern boundary. He believes, as do 
others who theorize on the matter, that the later 
rise of land between the two sections now com- 
bined in the White Mountain range carried the 
old shore up with it. 


Volcanic action in the region is characterized 
as ''very recent," which in this case may mean 
not a great many centuries. Two periods of vol- 
canic activity are indicated. The later of these 
formed crater and cinder cones along the west 
side of Owens Valley, from Eed Hill, near Bishop, 
to the lava beds of the middle part of the valley — 
possibly at or not far from the time when the mud 
flowed forth and formed the mesa north of 
Bishop, and the craters northward as far as Mono 
Lake Basin were active. 

Proof that the layman can appreciate that vol- 
canic periods came at widely separated intervals 
was disclosed in artesian borings near Big Pine. 
Lava was encountered at more than 100 feet 
depth, under alluvial soil, while not far away 
the products of comparatively recent eruptions 
strewed the present-day surface. Whoever can 
figure how long it took for the valley to be filled 
that hundred feet can guess the least time that 
passed between those two outpourings of molten 

Evidences are that the mountains originally 
towered far higher above the valleys, Owens par- 
ticularly, than at present. Whitney's pinnacle 
was higher above sea level, and has worn and 
broken away. On the other hand the valley floor 
was once much below what it now is. Borings to 
a depth of more than 1,000 feet, south of Owens 
Lake, penetrated only sedimentary gravels and 
soils. At the lake, deep borings cut successive 
layers of gravel, sand, volcanic ash, and gravel. 
Near Big Pine, a 576-foot well encountered only 


clay and fine sand, in several alternations. It is 
clear that the valley has been filling for untold 
ages. Some investigators claim nevertheless that 
the general level, at some remote period, was some 
hundreds of feet higher, and that it was dropped 
by a great earth-change. 

Willard D. Johnson, who spent months exam- 
ining geologic details of Owens Valley, wrote of 
it thus: 

"Owens Valley had a lively history in the recent geologic 
past. The mountain-making forces have been extraordinarily 
vigorous. For example, the broad embayment in the Inyo 
Range, opposite Big Pine, has been lifted at least 1800 feet, 
possibly 3000, since glacial times. The Black Canyon region 
was lifted nearly as much. This great deformation was local, 
dying out rapidly from Black Canyon northward, and south- 
ward from Waucoba canyon. But the Bishop lava field, which 
had been spread only a little earlier, w'as warped, folded and 
shattered in an extraordinary manner. The display of fault- 
ing effects has no parallel elsewhere that I know of. 

"In voleanism, cones are built by explosive eruption of 
molten lava. The coarser particles fall back vertically, to 
build the cone: the finer particles are drifted far on the wind, 
to fall as ash deposits. With excess of water and less heat, 
the steam-expanded lava is welled out and spreads as 'lava 
flows.' Owens Valley has record of voleanism of all types. 
There have been many ash showers; in the Black Canyon 
section many are preserved and exposed, one of which is five 
feet thick. There have been many cinder cones. Most of 
these have been in large part washed away, but several re- 
main, and some miles south of Big Pine one stands nearly 
perfect, embraced by glacial moraines, in evidence of post- 
glacial, or 'recent,' voleanism. Rude cones of built-up lava 
flows are numerous. The largest is the black mountain im- 
mediately south of Big Pine, There are at least a dozen 
others. Flows of molten lava cover large areas." 


In some time of the far past, Owens Valley 
was larger than at present, for a mighty spread 
of volcanic matter now deeply covers its northern 
end, north of Owens River. A mesa of many 
square miles is full of such evidence. The gorge 
of Owens River, eroded to more than 800 feet 
depth, in places, below the general level, with ver- 
tical cliff walls of over 400 feet, discloses only an 
unvarying tufa mass. 

Mr. Johnson wrote of the river gorge : 

"For six miles it has a remarkably straight coui-se. Has 
the river, in cutting its course, followed an earthquake crack 1 
There is some reason to think so. This long section is not only 
exceptionally straight, but it runs at a considerable angle 
across the general slope of the lava plain sui'faoe. That is, 
fill the canyon and turn the river upon its sui-face above the 
Mono power intake and it would discharge into Round 
Valley. Furthermore, the lava plain is extensively faulted, 
in two systems of breaks approximately parallel. On the 
other hand, none of the recognizable faults parallel this long 
stretch of canyon. There are old river courses on the lava 
surface. There is evidence, finally, that the river took the long 
six-mile course following a tilting of pronounced grade in 
that direction. After it had cut down enough of a canyon to 
hold it, another tilt toward Round Valley occurred. 

"The really striking physiographic fact of this region, 
however, receives no comment. It is Birehim Canyon. Rock 
Creek cuts a deep canyon across a rismg slope, in order to 
become a tributaiy to Owens River. If Birehim Canyon were 
filled, Rock Creek would pond up, only a few feet deep, and 
pass easily around the south end of the lava-plain slope. 
What deflected it in this unnatural way? Early heavy gla- 
ciation, which, filling Round Valley in large part, crowded 
Rock Creek aside, up-grade, and then left it permanently 


Willis T. Lee, of the United States Geological 
Survey, remarks: 

"The present form of the Owens River system is due 
largely to change of climate in recent geologic time. Through- 
out a part, at least, of Quaternary time Owens River flowed 
southward through Salt Wells Valley, and the portion of 
Owens Valley north of Bishop probably contained a flowing 
stream. During the changes toward greater aridity of climate 
which took place later, the water supply was cut off from the 
upper part of Owens River and one of its main tributaries 
was left as the head of the stream. At the time evaporation 
in the valley equalled or exceeded the inflow, that part of the 
river south of Owens Lake ceased to flow, and the tributaries 
from the White Mountains became diy from lack of sufficient 
rainfall, if indeed they had been permanent sti'eams." 

Johnson concluded that many of the great 
natural changes here mentioned happened but 
yesterday, so to speak, in the world's making. He 
believed that they occurred 

"since man made pictures of the hairy mammoth and other 
mammals belonging to glacial times on the walls of caverns 
in southeni France. Wliile, say, the valley of the Euphrates 
has been standing still, and while on its plains of silt myriads 
of human beings have time and again busied themselves in 
erecting brick temj^les on the moulded ruins of uncounted 
other brick temples, Owens Valley has been in the making." 



Before the white .man, the Piute ; before the 
Piute, what people, and for what duration of 
time I 

Geologist Bailey remarks that 

"the remains of spear and arrow heads of obsidian, and the 
fossil bones of mastodon, horse and camel, mingled together, 
tell the story that elementaiy man lived along the shores of 
these ancient lakes." 

Dr. A. L. Kroeber, of the University of Cali- 
fornia, takes direct issue with this, in writing: 

"The age of most of the animal remains is to be reckoned 
by tens of thousands of years. The age of the human finds, 
whether they consist of skeletons or implements, probably does 
not extend beyond hundreds or perhaps tho^^sands of years. 
Such at least is the consensus of opinion regarding all prop- 
erly authenticated human discoveries yet made on this conti- 
nent. In Europe and Asia the histoiy of man seems to go 
back nearly half a million years, but he seems to be a very 
late comer in America." 

He says that in no case yet investigated has 
there been a certainty that the remains of animals 
and indications of the presence of human beings 
were actually associated, without chance of their 



having been shifted together by later human or 
natural intent or accident. The scientific tendency 
is to be 

"exceedingly skeptical in advance regarding any such dis- 
coveiy. The opinion of Professor Bailey is matched by even 
more startling reports of Professor Whitney and Clarence 
King, but recent examination has led to a general disbelief in 
their reports." 

That a varied animal population roamed the 
wilds between these mountain ranges unguessable 
centuries ago is certain. Near Owens Lake, bones 
of some unidentified animal were brought up from 
110 feet depth. Near Independence, men digging 
a well found, underneath a cedar log, bones of an 
animal of the horse species. Still nearer to us in 
point of time was a mastodon, the bones of which 
were uncovered at a depth of only twelve feet, 
also near Independence — an animal estimated by 
the San Francisco Academy of Sciences to have 
measured twenty-five feet in length and fourteen 
in height. Near Death Valley, in eastern Inyo, a 
few crumbling bits of bone and a few teeth were 
identified as the remains of a paleotherium, an 
animal of remote ages. 

Not a dependable indication of man's presence 
in this valley in prehistoric times appears to have 
been found. The discovery, a few feet under- 
ground, of arrowheads of flint (not obsidian), and 
other articles not associated with the Piute tribe 
has been reported — probably indicating nothing 
more than the demise of a wandering warrior 
from some other region. 

Discoveries made in well drilling prove that 


in olden times, and at different periods, Owens 
Valley was more or less wooded. The cedar log 
which apparently crushed the life from the 
ancient horse, already mentioned, probably top- 
pled over untold years later than the growth of a 
black willow of which fragments were brought up 
from 281 feet depth near Big Pine; and many 
more centuries separated it from the life of a 
four-foot log, also apparently black willow, bored 
through 447 feet underground in the same ar- 
tesian well. In this well fourteen distinct changes 
of natural conditions were indicated by as many 
strata of soils. In the clay beds there penetrated, 
mass after mass of tules was found. 

A hazy Indian tradition reaches back to a time 
when groves and meadows abounded in these val- 
leys, instead of the familiar sagebrush and, 
further eastward, desert and desolation. Fish and 
game were plentiful, say the story-tellers of the 
campfire circle. That happy period came to an end 
when the mountains burned and lakes dried up. 
While this tallies perfectly with scientific conclu- 
sions, it is unbelievable as a continuing tradition. 
It merely does credit to Indian powers of observa- 
tion, deduction and imagination. 

Those who believe that there once occurred a 
great aboriginal migration through Owens Valley 
cite the fact that a chain of petroglyphs, or rock 
markings, extends from the Columbia river south- 
ward, into and through Inyo County, and on into 
Arizona. Examination weakens this evidence, for 
pictured rocks are found all over the arid West. 
' ' The pictures are not the work of any one roam- 


ing people," says one authority, ''they have been 
made by all tribes, everywhere, at all times." 
While markings can be traced northerly and 
southerly, so can they be traced easterly, and in 
other directions. Those of one limited area are 
so unlike those found in another as to make it 
improbable that they were made by the same 
people. There are vague resemblances, but only 
such as would come from the possibility that dif- 
ferent tribes, all lacking artistic conceptions, 
might chance to draw somewhat similar crude and 
simple designs. 

Such rock markings are found in many places 
throughout the county, as well as to the north and 
the south. The largest group of petroglyphs in 
this part of the State is a few miles north of 
Bishop. It contains very little, if anything, that 
appears to be capable of interpretation. The 
Chief of the Bureau of Ethnology of the Smith- 
sonian Institution writes, after examining photo- 
graphs of the collection : 

"There is little likelihood that the petroglyphs can be in- 
terpreted by anyone. The petroglyphs of the Indians north 
of central Mexico were not drawn in accordance with a recog- 
nized system of symbols, but to a large extent were arbitrary 
and were controlled more or less by the personal fancy of 
the maker or makers." 

In the group mentioned are some delineations 
of deer, human and animal footprints, sinuous 
lines which may mean snakes, oval drawings with 
connecting lines possibly representing waters, up- 
right lines with others branching as trees rarely 
do, and many-legged bugs. In general, however, 


the designs are but the crudest of geometrical 
figures, coils, gridirons, and apparently aimless 
chippings. It is said that petroglyphs found in 
the eastern part of the county show greater ef- 
forts at picturing than do those here described, 
including better drawn animal figures. 

Present-day Piutes disclaim any knowledge of 
the meaning of the petroglyphs and of their ori- 
gin, except as will be told in a later chapter on 
their legends. Dr. Kroeber, already quoted, con- 
siders this fact immaterial, remarking: 

"I should be disposed to agree with your eonelusion that 
the pietographs are comparatively recent, and very likely 
made by the ancestors of the present Piutes, The ignorance 
of the present generation would prove veiy little. Since the 
traditions of most Indians are most fragmentaiy, knowledge 
of that kind would be almost certain to die out in three or 
four hundred years, and might be lost in a century." 

The markings are generally found in soft ma- 
terial such as tufa, and were made by chippings. 
A few are dim, but may have been only lightly 
cut. Others are fully a quarter-inch in depth. 
The bottoms of the carvings are lighter in color 
than the surface of the stone. This tends to prove 
their recentness, the cuts not having weathered 
for long periods. Carvings undoubtedly made by 
white men show precisely the same differences in 
coloring, and the investigator who takes the 
trouble to do some rock-marking on his own ac- 
count will find that the surface he uncovers 
corresponds in shade with the bottoms of the un- 
known characters. 

Corroborative evidence that the work was 


done at no far-removed period, and by the Piutes, 
is offered by bits of slate similarly marked, taken 
from opened Indian graves in which the bpnes are 
still fairly well preserved. 

It is claimed that petroglyphs are found at 
camping places where there are or were springs 
or streams, and on natural routes of travel. There 
are exceptions to this, for some of the collections 
are in mountain nooks. The collections near 
Bishop are on the course of stream-beds or near 
ancient springs. 

It may not unreasonably be concluded that the 
pictured rocks offer no evidence of tribal an- 
tiquity in the region, and that they have no value 
except as illustrating the some-time diversion of 
idle individuals of a primitive people. 




The Piutes were probably the overlords of 
eastern California from the beginning of tribal 
existence until the white men took possession. 
Their traditions assert that they were at all times 
the rightful owners. Wars are narrated, Indians 
from across the Sierras being the traditional in- 
vaders. One of the legends told in this book is 
based on such an invasion. The Owens Valley 
Indians appear to have returned such visits, for 
it is said in trans-Sierra counties that they con- 
quered and held as their own the territory about 
the upper waters of the San Joaquin and Kings 
rivers. They are classed with the Monos — a word 
said by some to mean ''monkey" and by Cali- 
fornia Blue Book asserted to mean *' good-look- 
ing." A pioneer writer says the Monos called 
themselves '*Nut-ha." 

Bancroft's ''Native Races" assigns the west- 
em part of the Great Basin to two "great na- 
tions": the Shoshones or Snakes, and the Utahs, 
both classed as branches of the Shoshonean fam- 
ily, and related to the Apaches. The Piutes 



(spelled Piutes, Pi Utes, Paiutes, Paiuches, Pah 
Utes, according to the fancy of the person writing 
of them) are a subtribe of the Utahs. Bancroft 
holds that the Piutes and the Pah Utes are two 
different tribes. The former, split into many 
small captaincies, have different designations, in- 
cluding the Toy (Tule) Piutes of the Pyramid, 
Nevada, region; the Ocki (Trout) Piutes on 
Walker River; the Monos, extending across the 
Sierras into Tuolumne county ; the Cozaby Piutes, 
*'cozaby" being the Indian name of a small worm 
found in immense numbers on the shores of Mono 
Lake and formerly, if not now, used as food. 

Eastern Inyo belonged to the Panamints, a 
subtribe of which the last member is said to have 
died some years ago. When they were visited by 
a government representative (F. V. Coville) in 
1891 there were about twenty-five survivors. The 
Indian population there, however, came to repre- 
sent many tribes, for the remote and nearly inac- 
cessible desert places received renegades, red as 
well as white, from all directions as the white 
man's law became enforced. 

The name Olancha, now borne by a locality 
near Owens Lake, designated a tribe living west 
of that point and across the Sierra summit. 
Whether that people ever laid claim to territory 
on this slope is but surmise. 

Other neighbors of the aboriginal Owens Val- 
leyans were the Meewocs, in Fresno and the west- 
ern Sierras; Notonatos, on Kings River; Tula- 
renos, in Tulare ; Kaweahs, and many others. Ban- 
croft gives the names of more than two hundred 


different tribes in California, with the remark 
that in many cases the same people took different 
names, after chiefs or for some other reason. 

Note is also found in records of the Francis- 
can monks, in Bancroft's writings, and in a book 
written by a French priest in 1860, after spending 
seven years in the West, of a tribe called the 
Benemes, inhabiting southern Inyo and the Mo- 
jave desert. The only information about them is 
given by the French writer, Domenich: "The 
only prominent trait of this numerous tribe is a 
character of great effeminacy. These Indians are 
very kind to strangers. ' ' 

The primitive Piutes were not materially dif- 
ferent from the average Indians of other parts of 
the continent. They lacked some of the attain- 
ments of tribes of the eastern seaboard; on the 
other hand they were higher in the scale than the 
squalid Diggers of western California, whom they 
regarded with contempt. They were not warriors, 
in individual bravery. Their fighting tactics 
were similar to those of a certain free-lance leader 
of the Civil War who believed in "gittin' thar 
fustest with the most men. ' ' Overwhelming num- 
bers rather than military skill of any kind seems 
to have been the chief reliance of Indian combat- 

Spears were known among them, but appear 
to have been used almost exclusively for fishing. 
The bow and arrow formed the chief reliance for 
offense and defense. The Piute bow was com- 
monly made of a tough wood, backed with sinew 
from deer or other animals. The best form of bow 


was two and one-half to three feet long, with its 
ends shaped in short reverse curves. Some bows 
were simple arcs, four or five feet long. Arrows 
were made of a species of cane, of the. straight- 
growing arrow weed when found, or of willow. 
Arrow material was cut before it fully matured. 
Bends in it were straightened by bending in con- 
tact with the groove in a stone shaped for the 
purpose, and heated. Numerous examples of such 
stones are found in collections of Indian relics. 
Obsidian was sometimes used for arrow heads; 
more often the substance employed was the hard 
wood of the sagebrush, burned or scraped to a 
dull point. The heads and the two or three spi- 
rally placed feathers for guiding the shaft were 
secured to it by threads of sinew. 

Writers on Indian customs have told how ob- 
sidian heads for arrow and spear are shaped by 
being heated, then subjected to the dropping of 
cold water so as to chip away the stone. Others 
may have followed this method; the Piute plan 
was different. The manufacturer selected a chip 
of obsidian approximating the desired shape and 
size, and with favorable cleavage lines. This frag- 
ment was held in one hand, which was protected 
by a buckskin covering; then a sharp bit of bone 
was used to laboriously pry off fragment after 
fragment of obsidian until a satisfactory point 
was shaped. 

As the food problem took precedence over all 
others, nearly all Piute manufactures related to 
it. The bow and arrow, occasionally necessary 
for fighting, were continually used in hunting. 


Another article employed in the chase was the 
rabbit net. A milkweed known to many as Indian 
hemp yields a long and fairly strong fiber; this 
was beaten and stripped from the dried stalks and 
twisted into cord, with which long nets were made. 
These nets, less than three feet in height, were 
stretched across favorite runways of rabbits. On 
the occasion of a drive, the animals coming to the 
net found no difficulty in putting their heads 
through the open meshes, but could neither force 
their bodies through nor, because of their long 
ears, withdraw from the entanglement, and be- 
came easy captives. 

Antelope, deer and mountain sheep were some- 
times killed by large hunting parties which 
stealthily surrounded the game; then wherever 
the hapless animal turned, an arrow awaited it 
until a lucky shot brought it down. 

There were, besides tiny minnows, but two 
native species of fishes, chubs and suckers. Low- 
water periods were the favorite times for their 
capture. Dams were made across the diminished 
stream, sometimes by Indians standing in line 
across the channel to briefly serve as a backing 
against which to pile sods, l3rush and earth. As 
the channel immediately below was drained, its 
fish were scooped out. The trout with which the 
waters of the eastern slope of the Sierras now 
teem were planted by the white men. Quail also 
were unknown on the primitive bill of fare, few 
or none having existed in this region prior to the 
coming of the whites. 

In addition to such foods as white people 


would find acceptable, the Indian menu included 
nearly everything that had life, including some 
kinds of insects and of worms. A large caterpil- 
lar known as ''pe-ag-ge" (to spell it phoiletically) 
was a staple harvest. The hills between Owens 
Valley and Mono Lake Basin seem to be the spe- 
cial habitat of this delicacy. It is found in living 
pine trees, and is not the white worm common in 
stumps. When gathered it was dried for later 
consumption. The ''cozaby" of the lake shores, 
the larvae of a form of fly, was gathered where 
the waves had piled it in windrows at the water's 
edge, and similarly dried. 

The sloughs yielded a species of mussel. In 
the early years of white occupation, piles of such 
shells were often seen near Indian camps. 

Agriculture was an art unknown to the abo- 
riginal inhabitants. They knew that to flood fav- 
orable tracts of ground occasionally would in- 
crease their yield of plants and grasses, and to 
that extent only did they pay attention to the fer- 
tile soil. A visitor in 1859 wrote : 

"Large tracts of land are irrigated by the natives to secure 
the growth of grass seeds and gTass nuts — a small tuberous 
root of fine taste and nutritious qualities which grows here in 
great abundance. Their ditches for irrigation are in some 
cases caiTied for miles, displaying as much accuracy and judg- 
ment as if laid out by an engineer, and this, too, without the 
aid of a single agricultural implement. They are totally ig- 
norant of agriculture, and depend entirely on the natural 
resources of the country for food and clothing." 

The grass nut mentioned in the quotation is 
known as 'Haboose." In appearance it resembles 


a miniature potato. It is firm and solid, pleasant 
to the taste, and by no means to be despised as a 
food article. 

The pinon, ''Pimis monophylla," to give the 
tree its botanical designation, furnished to the 
natives one of their chief food staples. The pine 
nut is found on most of the desert mountains of 
western Nevada and eastern California, and in the 
eastern Sierran range and foothills. Harvesting 
the nuts, in early autumn, caused, and still causes, 
an extensive Piute migration to the hills. Wliole 
villages sprang up in the pinon forests while the 
crop was being gathered. The season comes as 
the seeds mature, but before the cone scales have 
opened. The cones are beaten from the trees, and 
spread in the sun until the scales become dry and 
crack apart. Artificial heat sometimes expedites 
this process. The seeds are then shaken out or 
beaten out with sticks. The nuts were formerly 
roasted by being put into baskets with live coals 
and stirred or shaken until the cooking was com- 
pleted; now probably less primitive means are 
used. If properly prepared, the nuts remain fresh 
and edible for long periods. They are eaten either 
in the roasted condition, or ground up and eaten 
as a dry meal or made into soup. 

Many other plants supplied food, either in 
Owens Valley or in the desert valleys to the east- 
ward, or both, according to where they might be 
found. Sand grass, a plant of many localities of 
the West, was one of these. The abundant seeds 
were gathered in baskets by beating the grass 
with a sort of paddle; then the chatf was win- 


nowed from the seeds. A large round-headed 
cactus known as ''devil's pincushion," found in 
some rocky situations, yielded seeds specially 
valued because of their long period of freshness 
after being gathered, thus serving when most 
other supplies had failed. Several other kinds 
of seeds were gathered and used, commonly in the 
form of mush. 

A kind of prickly pear was made into food. 
When, in early summer, the flat, fleshy stems 
were fully distended with sap, they were broken 
off with sticks and collected in baskets. Each 
piece was rubbed with grass to remove the 
prickles, and exposed to the heat of the sun. When 
thoroughly dry they kept indefinitely, and were 
often prepared for eating by boiling. The man- 
ner of preparation was sometimes varied. In- 
stead of being dried, the pieces were piled into a 
thoroughly heated stone-lined cavity, which was 
first lined with grass. A layer of cactus joints 
was laid in, then hot stones, then cactus, and so 
on until the pile was rounded. The whole was 
covered with a mat of vegetation and lastly with 
moist earth. The pile was allowed to steam for 
ten or twelve hours, after which the ''na-vo," as 
it was called, was ready to be eaten, or to be dried 
and kept for the future. The dried substance is 
said to have resembled dried peaches in texture 
and appearance. This dish was more especially 
in favor in the eastern part of the county, where 
the plant is more common. 

Some plants of the form botanically known as 
cruciferae, having large juicy leaves, and having 


a cabbage-like taste, were gathered and thrown 
into boiling water for a few minutes, then taken 
out, washed in cold water and squeezed. This 
operation was repeated several times, for the pur- 
pose of removing bitterness and eliminating some 
substances known to produce effects unpleasant 
to the eater. Frank Kennedy, an old-timer in the 
Panamint region, said that when food was very 
scarce almost any green herbage was eaten after 
a similar preparation. 

The mesquite furnished for the desert Indians 
a food not available in Owens Valley. The ripe 
pods store a small amount of sugary nutritious 
matter. The same Indians made use of the un- 
developed buds of the yucca. In gathering this 
material, the leaves around the bud were grasped 
by the hand and by a twist and sidewise pull it 
was broken off. Though as the buds age the stems 
become very tough, in that early stage they are 
brittle and easily broken by one who understands 
how. In preparing this food, the outer leaves and 
tips are discarded, leaving an egg-shaped, solid 
and juicy mass. This is roasted, and eaten either 
hot or cold. 

Indians of Inyo had no such trouble about 
salt supply as was the rule among eastern aborig- 
ines, for they had but to gather all they wanted 
from huge natural beds. 

Sugar substitutes were secured from the com- 
mon reed, in one of two ways. One was to scrape 
from the stems and leaves a parasitic covering, 
which was used in the crude form. White men who 
saw it say that the "sugar" was filled with small 


green bugs, a detail apparently not objectionable. 
Another method was to cut the plants, when fully 
grown, and dry them in the sun. The material 
was pulverized and the finer portions sifted out, 
to be worked into a gum-like mass, and finished 
by being partially roasted. 

Many things were eaten raw; others were 
dried. The methods of cooking included the 
simple plan of holding the food on sticks over the 
fire; roasting by mixing it with live coals in 
wicker baskets, which were shaken; boiling in 
water-tight baskets into which hot stones were 

Domestic utensils were made of wickerwork. 
They were in various forms, according to pur- 
pose. Plates and sieves were from nine to twelve 
inches in diameter, slightly saucer-shaped. Water 
baskets were so closely woven as to be almost 
water-tight, and finished off with a coating of 
pitch or other substance ; these were usually urn- 
shaped, with a narrow neck and often a rounded 
or conical bottom. The pot basket was the squaw's 
most useful utensil. It was bowl-shaped, with 
curving sides and a flattened bottom, very closely 
woven. Before white men provided something 
better — it is to be understood that all these refer- 
ences to modes of living relate to the early period 
— the pot basket served as a container in which to 
boil food, as well as a bowl for dry substances. On 
occasion, it served the owner as a head covering. 
Transportation was done in packbaskets, up to 
two and one-half feet high, funnel shaped, and 
carried on the back, sometimes by being grasped 


by the rim but more often by means of a 'strap 
which was passed across the bearer's forehead. 
Winnowing baskets, used for separating chaff 
from seeds, were two or three feet long, oval 
with one end brought to a point, and but a few 
inches deep. The infant Piute was cradled in a 
wickerwork contrivance with a Y-shaped tree fork 
as a base. The back of this receptacle was flat; 
half of the front was rounded, diminishing to the 
pointed base; usually a curved framework pro- 
jected from the top of the contrivance to keep the 
sun from the infant's face. Into this he was 
lashed, and either left or carried on the mother's 
back as circumstances required. Other articles, 
including bird cages, were likewise made of wick- 

All these articles were made by the squaws at 
the cost of much time, care, and often skill. Wil- 
low was the principal material, though not the 
invariable one. In this manufacture, the withes 
were gathered at a certain stage of growth. The 
bark was stripped off, and protuberances scraped 
down. The sticks were then split into three or 
more strands, unless they were to be used for 
large and coarse baskets or the withes were too 
small to justify splitting. Each strand was shaped 
into a thin pliant strip, which was stored until 
wanted and soaked in water before using. The 
thread-like effect in some weaving is secured 
by the use of a fine and tough grass. 

The finer baskets, such as are included in col- 
lections which white people have made, were or- 
namented in various ways. Bark was sometimes 


left on for this purpose ; sometimes the work was 
stained, and on occasion feathers of selected col- 
ors were worked in. Colored figuring,, usually 
black in the baskets of Owens Valley Indians, was 
made by using natural growths of that hue. The 
Panamints used a plant known as devil horns, 
having a black fiber several inches long. Natives 
who could obtain yucca roots sometimes employed 
the red coloring from that source. 

Clothing was a minor consideration, during 
most of the year. No attempt was made to manu- 
facture fabrics of any kind. Eabbit skins sewed 
together served as robes for the women, and pro- 
vided a warm covering. Moccasins were made of 
deer skin, put together in the simplest manner. The 
purpose of these articles was for comfort only; 
other reasons hardly figured. Early white visitors 
to this region found the natives clad in little more 
than primitive simplicity and bright face paints. 

A form of glue, for fastening sinew backing 
on bows, was made by boiling the hoofs of moun- 
tain sheep. A minute parasite found on certain 
plants was also used for the purpose; the para- 
sitic masses were scraped off in the fomi of gum, 
kneaded and worked, and applied hot. 

Stone pipes have been found in some Indian 
burial grounds, though not often enough to in- 
dicate that smoking was more than a ceremonial 
custom. A plant known as Indian tobacco was 

Not a single instance has been discovered to 
indicate that the Piutes had even so much knowl- 
edge of metallurgy as to fashion ornaments, let 


alone articles of use. They knew, however, where 
placer gold was to be found. 

The tribes of the region were not nomadic; 
the general locality of each subdivision appears to 
have been fixed with considerable definiteness. In 
consequence, their habitations were built with fair 
permanence, considering their limitations of skill. 
Sometimes the camp consisted of nothing more 
than a curved windbreak of willow sticks, driven 
into the ground and fastened by horizontally 
woven withes. The more elaborate structures were 
conical campoodies of tules and willows, thick- 
walled and weatherproof except at the small en- 
trance through which the occupants crouched 
their way. In the average of these, a person of 
ordinary height might stand erect in the central 
part. On occasion, these huts became sweat- 
houses for the treatment of the sick. 






The medicine man was an institution of Piute- 
dom as of probably all other savage tribes. The 
distinction was not what might be termed a popu- 
lar honor. Whether the selection was made for 
some hereditary reason, or because of some event 
at his birth or in the early life of the doctor, his 
status was established at an age when he had no 
chance to object. It does not appear that he was 
expected to employ his skill until he had reached 
reasonably mature years, but his status was set- 
tled, however he might resent it when he came to 
understand the part cast for him in the drama of 
life. And resent it he usually did, for as soon as 
his ministrations had sent a sufficient number — 
generally three — of his fellows to the happy hunt- 
ing grounds his own violent and sudden removal 
from mundane aifairs would come as a matter of 

Among the former Piute residents of Owens 
Valley, during the early years of white occupa- 



tion, was one Jim, who had been selected by fate 
for a doctor's career. In consequence, Jim con- 
stantly carried a ' ' sixteen-shoot gnn," prepared 
at all times to "heap kill um" if there were at- 
tempts either to force him to practice or to fasten 
on him the results of some other person's lack of 
skill in exorcising evil spirits. At an earlier pe- 
riod, when less efficient defense was available, Jim 
probably would have fled to other parts. 

The standard of medical success, if not skill, 
required of Piute medicos was higher than among 
civilized peoples ; for while a white doctor is in no 
danger of violence whatever his (or his patient's) 
luck, the Piute healer did well to arrange his af- 
fairs immediately on the demise of his third pa- 
tient. He was marked for early and unceremo- 
nious removal, by whatever means might be con- 
venient for the kin of his last case. Stones, arrows, 
lassos, in daylight or darkness, regardless of place 
or anything but opportunity, were used to reduce 
the number of medicine men in active service. It 
was approved tribal law. 

It appears that the three-death rule was not 
always the standard. The doctor might some- 
times pay the penalty for a bad guess, even if the 
patient recovered. If when called he predicted 
death, but the patient got well, it was marked as 
a failure of prophecy; the medicine man didn't 
know his business, and it went toward his undo- 
ing. If the patient's death was predicted and 
came to pass, accuracy of prophecy counted for 
nothing; he had to answer for losing the case. His 
best chance for rounding out his allotted years was 


in being fortunate enough to have no professional 

His family was in no happier plight. Relation- 
ship to an unsuccessful medicine man gave the sis- 
ters and cousins and aunts and other female 
relatives a special liability to powers of witch- 
craft, and they suffered accordingly. Many cold- 
blooded murders of such alleged witches are said 
to have been committed. 

Nearly all the threatened clashes between In- 
dians and whites, after the close of the Indian 
war, came from the white man's inability to ap- 
preciate the propriety of killing off unsuccessful 
medicine men, and a determination to stop mur- 
ders of that character. As late as 1886 there were 
instances of the killing of both *' doctors" and 
* 'witches." But even then the younger genera- 
tion of Indians rebelled against the barbarous 
custom. In later years, the sick native usually 
calls for a white physician. The Indian doctor 
has become practically non-existent, and it has 
been long since there has been a known case of 
one being slain. And yet in 1916 barbaric in- 
cantation was used to treat one of the belles of 
the tribe, for some illness, until in the last ex- 
tremity a physician was called, unavailingly. In 
another case as recent, a girl's sore eyes were 
treated by some campfire beldame who rubbed 
the eyeballs with a piece of stone until the blood 
started, in order to release the evil spirit that 
caused the trouble. In spite of vast improvement 
there is still need of enlightenment among the 


The chief medical process included dancing 
and incantations to drive away the demon that 
possessed the sick individual, if the latter 's com- 
plaint were fever or some trouble of which the 
cause was not obvious. The sweathouse was used 
for some complaints, particularly for those in 
which a rash appeared on the skin. The victim 
went into an airtight wickiup with suitable acces- 
sories for heating. When sufficiently warmed up, 
and perspiring freely if possible, the invalid ran 
out and plunged into a pool or stream of cold 
water. As this system was used for a wide range 
of ills, the consequences in many cases may be 

A few infusions were known and used. Pitch 
or fir balsam served to cover wounds. A white 
man who spoke Piute fluently stated that a method 
for closing open wounds was to sew them with the 
heads of ants. A large black ant found in the 
hills was used for the purpose, being held in such 
position that it grasped the lips of the pushed- 
together wound. The insect was then pinched in 
two, leaving its head to serve as a stitch. This 
sounds a bit fanciful, but was given as a fact. 

Ants also figure in a rheumatism cure given 
by an Indian to a white friend: "Make um sick 
man sit on ant's nest. Bimeby (by and by) heap 
holler — purty good. Mebbe so git well." This 
scheme has a parallel in the white argument that 
stings of bees help to cure the same complaint; 
and the parallel is not diminished by the "mebbe 
so git well." 

Tribal custom disposed of aged Indians in 


heartless fashion, but it is said that the individuals 
in question were at least sometimes willing parties 
to the arrangement. The one who had become 
''old and only in the way" was taken to some lone 
spot and left with a limited supply of food and 
water. There he or she starved, if some earlier 
termination of misery did not give release. Ma- 
larango, chief of the Coso Piutes, had attained the 
ripe age of (supposedly) ninety years when with 
many bodily troubles he supervised preparations 
for his own removal in this way in 1874. Sup- 
plied with a small stock of pine nuts with which 
to gradually '' taper off " on a lifelong habit of eat- 
ing more or less as circumstances had happened 
to control, he was located at a spring, with the 
expectation of going into his last sleep in three 

The home of a dead person was burned, to- 
gether with at least a part of his personal posses- 
sions. No evidence appears that goods and 
chattels of any consequence were buried with the 
body. Numerous Indian graves have been en- 
countered in excavating, and in one instance the 
gradual removal of a sand hill uncovered a rather 
extensive burying ground, in which there were 
found only bones and occasionally a bit of figured 

These were the things of primitive times. The 
Owens Valley Indian has advanced marvelously — 
more so than the white man did in ten times as 
many years, for the white slowly evolved ad- 
vantages that were brought ready-made to the 
Piute. Civilized clothing appealed to the Indian 


for practical reasons. He evoluted from unmoral 
conditions. He learned how to secure a living 
from the ground, and became skilled in lines 
within his comprehension. He grew mentally. 
There are Piutes who in education excel some 
of the white men beside whom they work. There 
are some who have taken up skilled trades. Ad- 
herents to primitive customs are found only 
among the ancients of the people ; the newer gen- 
eration are advancing rapidly. The women often 
dress neatly, and among them are found numerous 
competent housekeepers. Descendants of the na- 
tives who fled at sight of the first wagon own 
and drive their own automobiles. While the 
wattled wickiup has not become extinct, the frame 
cabin is common in the little Piute villages. Sew- 
ing machine, rugs and carpets are often found 
inside, and perhaps a talking machine with a sur- 
prising selection of music. For all the crudeness 
of the hieroglyphics on pictured rocks, the natives 
have a degree of artistic ability. A wholly un- 
taught girl made a recognizable portrait of a 
white acquaintance, while others of Indian blood 
have acquired such skill as to make their par- 
tially trained abilities a source of revenue. In- 
stead of the pot basket worn as a hat, one is more 
likely to see the feminine Piute head adorned with 
decorated millinery from some store. No longer 
is the camp commissary repulsive in its selection 
of viands, though the pe-ag-ge is occasionally still 
gathered. White men's food products are chosen 
with such fastidiousness, sometimes, that the In- 
dian buyer insists on his or her special preference 


of flour or whatever other commodity may be 

We have written of old-time customs as much 
because some record of them should be kept as 
for any other reason, and because of the contrast 
with present-day conditions. Basketry is becom- 
ing a lost art among the Indian women ; and other 
things, often less commendable, are disappearing 
just as surely. The Piute fills an important place 
in the economic and industrial life of Inyo County. 
This evolution is partly the result of association 
with the whites and recognition of the superiority 
of their ways. It is also largely due to the ju- 
dicious labors of conscientious agents and teach- 
ers who have been placed among them by the 
national government. The Indian is growing into 
full, intelligent citizenship. This has come from 
judicious leading and association. It is a gradual 
process, and yet ''gradual" seems hardly a fitting 
term to denote the wonderful advance that has 
been made in every item of the Indian 's life since 
some of those around us were carried on their 
mothers' backs. The outcome can best be left to 
the people who understand the situation, and who, 
with full sympathy for the Indian's future, 
willingly further his interests. It is not a 
''problem" to be dealt with at long range by 
would-be philanthropists (if philanthropy be their 
purpose) whose theories merely interfere with 
Indian welfare. 

Securing information about the Piutes, from 
them, is no easy undertaking. Most of them are 
reluctant about telling anything of their tribal 


life, and to learn their individual Indian nafiies, 
or their meaning, is perhaps the most difficult of 
all. It is hard to explain why this is true. To 
learn the legends that are, or were, current among 
them, is an undertaking. 

Indian history, preserved only by narration 
from one generation to the next, soon becomes 
merged with tradition and legend. With no such 
standard of reckoning as we have, their stories 
of the past are generally dated "long time ago," 
yet may have been only two or three generations 
back. Details are lost, or elaborated. A legendary 
migration may have had its foundation in the 
movement of but a small band. A flood of purely 
local magnitude may become all-enveloping, in 
the narrations of later years. In addition to such 
embellishments as native story-tellers add to their 
tales, by the time white writers have taken their 
turn at rounding out the stories the results are 
usually far from the first camp-fire telling. 

It is particularly noticeable that all Indian 
legends have their scenes in the vicinity of the 
tribes that tell them. The world of each is prac- 
tically limited to its own horizon. 

Occasionally a legend is secured at first-hand 
from a native source. Such an instance is the 
Piute version of the Creation, as told by an Owens 
Valley Indian to D. L. Maxwell, formerly of the 
local Indian Service, and by him recorded in the 
following language: 

"The word 'Piute' signifies 'people who come 
and go in boats.' These people originally lived 
along the shores of Lake Lahontan. Their 


descendants now live near the mountain lakes of 
eastern California and Nevada. 

*' According to their legends, at the beginning 
the world was all water. At that time the Great 
Wolf God, the God of Creation, with the assistance 
of his little brother or son, the coyote, planted the 
rock seeds in the great water, and from them the 
rocks and land grew. The rock plants were helped 
in their growth, and cared for while growing, by 
the Pot-sa-gah-wahs. The Pot-sa-gah-wahs were 
the ministering spirits of the Wolf God, and were 
supposed to have the form and physique of a 
beautiful child about ten years old. They could 
walk about on land, but lived and hid themselves 
from human eyes in the water, where their move- 
ments were rapid — almost instantaneous." 

(Any one who is critical of this legend because 
of the introduction of human beings at this stage 
is requested, before he comments on the Indian 
story, to inform us where Cain got his wife.) 

''When the earth became habitable, the first 
man to be created was Hy-nan-nu. His mother 
was a winged creature, a spirit or bird, perhaps 
Hai-wai, the dove. 

"The Piutes were created from the rocks. A 
particular rock which is far up on one of the 
creeks west of Owens Valley, and having a re- 
semblance to a human form, w^as the mother rock. 

''After the Piutes had become numerous in 
Owens Valley, Hy-nan-nu came from the south- 
east to teach them better modes of living. He 
was not a Piute, but came from some other tribe, 
and remained here for many j^ears. He was not 


only their Adam, but also their Moses, writing 
laws for them on tables of stone. They believe 
the picture writings on the rocks of this valley 
are the work of his hands. They were at one 
time able to read those writings, but that art has 
long been lost. They have legends telling what 
each of the different writings signify. 

''Hy-nan-nu was also their Methuselah, Enoch, 
Solomon and Samson. They have legends which 
tell of his feats of strength and daring. He is 
to them more than that, for they say of him as 
was said of the humble Galilean, 'He went about 
doing good.' 

''Hy-nan-nu taught the Piutes to be happy; 
not to worry or be concerned about this world's 
goods. He would sometimes break a basket in 
the maker's hands or dig up the growing taboose 
in order to teach them that work was not of so 
much importance as a happy disposition. So 
work took a secondary place in the minds of the 
Piute forefathers. 

'*He was one day walking through Long Val- 
ley when he saw several Pot-sa-gah-wahs who 
had left the waters of Owens River and were 
walking on the side of the mountain. He desired 
to catch them, and being between them and the 
river he chased these little creatures far up the 
mountain and was about to take them when the 
"Wolf God sent water up into the mountains to 
save their lives. A lake was created for their 
benefit; they plunged into it and were safe. 

**The lake which originated on that memor- 
able occasion is now rudely called Convict Lake, 


instead of its Piute name Wit-so-nali-pah, which 
means * spring up, ' or perhaps ' spring up to save 

' * The writing on a rock near Eock -Creek in 
Eound Valley is the story of a little child and 
how it was taken by the Pot-sa-gah-wahs into the 
spirit world and became a Pot-sa-gah-wah. Hy- 
nan-nu taught that people might be changed at 
death into those little beings. The qualities essen- 
tial to winning that reward are strength and 
bravery. There must be no fears for the future — 
and here the idea of trust and faith becomes part 
of their religion. 

" 'That in even savage bosoms 

There are longings, yearnings, strivings, 

For the good they comprehend not; 

That the feeble hand and helpless, 

Groping blindly in the darkness, 

Touches God's right hand in that darkness 

And is lifted up and strengthened.' 

"Hy-nan-nu, while teaching in Inyo County, 
was always looking for his mother, whom he had 
never seen or had but glimpsed. Having finished 
his work here, and being sure his mother was not 
in this valley, he one day walked up Bishop Creek 
and passed over the mountains, to renew his work 
with the people he might find there and to con- 
tinue his search for his mother. 

''Thus according to Piute tradition was 
created the earth and things that dwell therein." 

It is not without interest to compare this with 
the very different Creation legend of the Western 
Nevada branches of the same tribe : 


**At first the world was all water and remained 
so for a long time. Then the water began to go 
down, and at last Kurangwa (Mt. Grant) came 
from the water, near the southwest end of Walker 
Lake. There was fire on its top, and when the 
wind blew hard the water dashed over the fire 
and would have extinguished it, but for the sage- 
hen nestling over it and fanning away the water 
with its wings. The heat scorched the feathers 
on the sagehen's breast, and they remain black to 
this day. Afterwards the Piutes got their first 
fire from the mountain through the help of the 
rabbit." (Most Indian legends credit the coyote 
with having preserved fire.) 

"As the water subsided other mountains ap- 
peared, until at last the earth was left as it now 
is. Then the great ancestor of the Piutes came 
from the south past Mt. Grant, upon which his 
foot-prints can still be seen, and made his home 
in the region of Carson Sink. A woman followed 
him; they met and she became his wife. They 
dressed themselves in skins and lived on the meat 
of deer and mountain sheep. They had children, 
two boys and two girls. The father made bows 
and arrows for the boys, and the mother taught 
the girls how to dig roots. 

"When the children grew up each boy mar- 
ried a sister, but the new families quarreled until 
the father commanded them to separate. One 
family went south and became fish-eaters, the 
Piutes of Walker Lake, and the others went north 
and became buffalo-eaters, the Bannocks. After 
the children had left them the parents went into 
the mountains and from there into the sky." 


Where the fish and pine nuts came from is told 
in another legend: A mountain rocked violently, 
and a mighty rift appeared in its side. As a 
dazzling light shone, a gigantic Indian, .dressed 
in buckskin and decorated with beads and feath- 
ers, stepped forth. He fired an arrow at the 
hillside, and on the slope arose many trees laden 
with pine nuts. A shaft was shot into the water, 
and the stream swarmed with fish. He pointed to 
the mountains, and the awe-stricken natives fol- 
lowed his direction and found a cave floored with 

Man made friends with some of the animals 
in this wise: A dog had a bear at bay. While 
bruin sat on his haunches waiting for an op- 
portunity to slap the dog into oblivion, the first 
man sneaked up behind the bear and killed it with 
a club. The man skinned the bear with his strong 
fingers, and as he ate some of the meat he threw 
portions to the dog, establishing a lasting friend- 
ship. A little later the first woman appeared, and 
while she was eating flesh from the bear a cat ap- 
peared. She fed it, which accounts for the inti- 
macy between women and cats ever since. When 
the dog saw the woman feeding the cat he became 
jealous and tried to chase pussy away. The 
woman protected the cat, and the dog and the cat 
have always been enemies. 

The best known legend of Owens Valley is that 
of Winnedumah. It is connected with a remark- 
able monolith of sandstone, on the extreme crest 
of the White Mountains, directly east of Inde- 
pendence. This object, commonly known as the 


Piute Monument, is eighty feet high, and f torn its 
position on the skyline is visible for many miles. 
It is — or was — considered an enduring monument 
of faithfulness, according to the legend of which 
the following appears to be a more accurate nar- 
ration than most of those which have been pub- 
lished : 

''Long, long ago" the great medicine man of 
the Piutes was Winnedumah, brother of Tinne- 
maha, war chief of the people. The principal 
tribal stronghold was in the Black Rocks, a 
tumbled volcanic mass which is strewn over mid- 
Owens Valley for several square miles. 

One day hordes of Diggers poured through the 
passes of the Sierras, Pahbatoya, to raid the 
Piute hunting grounds. The owners resented this 
trespass, and a battle such as no Piute has wit- 
nessed since that event began forthwith. It lasted 
through days of the fiercest fighting. At last the 
Piutes were beaten and forced to flee. Many 
found refuge in the caves and recesses of the 
Black Eocks — ^which same cavities may be seen to 
this day by whoever may doubt this tale. Others 
fled across the rugged mountains to the eastward. 
Among the fugitives was Winnedumah, whose 
medicine had been useless against the invaders. 
Sorely pressed, exhausted, and alone he gained 
the summit, where he stopped for a final view of 
the domain which he deemed lost, and to await 
the coming of his warrior brother. But Tinne- 
maha had fallen in the fray, and while Winnedu- 
mah invoked the aid of the Great Spirit for his 
stricken people, a great convulsion of nature 


came, and one of its results was to transform him 
into a pillar of stone. The same natural mani- 
festation so frightened the trespassing Diggers 
that they forthwith went back from whence they 
came, never again to dispute the ownership of 
Owens Valley. There to this day stands Win- 
nedumah, faithful to the end of time. 

A tale told by a Mono Indian, and known also 
to Owens Valley Indians to whom it was men- 
tioned, is of a winter of special hardships and 
trials so severe that it virtually wiped out the 
population. ''Long time ago — my grandfather 
say — him grandfather — him grandfather — him 
grandfather," and so on for many generations, 
this devastating winter happened. Deep snow 
came, and kept coming until the whole region 
bordering the eastern Sierras was under a blanket 
that in the higher valleys did not melt away until 
midsummer. All animal life was killed off, or 
sought pleasanter climes, and the natives, banded 
at the warm springs, were without food. In this 
extremity the aged of the tribe sought their own 
deaths, that the younger ones might thereby be 
supplied with food. It was a long time after 
that, the narrator said, before there were any 
number of Indians along the Sierras, for the sur- 
vivors went away. 



padres did not reach inyo — jedediah smith, 1825 — 

gold found at mono lake — ogden, 1831 captain 

joe walker, 1832 — chiles party, 1842 — wagons 

abandoned at owens lake — resting springs 

Fremont's expeditions — naming of owens river. 

The Franciscan missionaries, who played so 
large a part in the history of western California, 
did not cross or even reach the Sierra Nevada 
Mountains. According to Fr. Zephyrin, in charge 
of the Santa Barbara Mission and its historical 
records when this chapter is written, and himself 
a coast authority on historical matters, Francisco 
Hermenegildo Garces journeyed from the mission 
near Tucson, Arizona, across the Mojave desert 
in 1775, and came in contact with the Beneme 
tribe of Indians, whose territory extended into 
southern Inyo ; he passed on to Tulare County by 
way of San Fernando. 

Historian Irving B. Eichman's map of early 
California routes gives that of Captain Joe 
Walker, 1833, as the first through Owens Valley. 
Bancroft, however, notes that Jedediah S. Smith 
and his party of trappers crossed the Sierras at 
Walker's Pass in 1829 and skirted the Sierras 
north to Mono Lake. McGroarty's "California" 
also mentions Smith's journey over the "route 
mentioned. Important as was Bancroft's work, 



most of his delving into the history of the inter- 
mountain country was done by proxy, and incom- 
pletely as well. We are justified as accepting 
as more dependable an account based on Smith's 
own notes and published in 1881. According to it, 
Smith and forty companions crossed the country 
from the Yellowstone River in 1825. He followed, 
in Nevada, what he called the Mary River, now 
known as the Humboldt. He and two of his party 
came south by Walker Lake, and crossed Walker's 
Pass in July of that year, the rest of the expedi- 
tion crossing the Sierras farther north. In Octo- 
ber Smith came back over the same route, 
traveling closer to the Sierras on the way north. 
He discovered Mono Lake, and found gold there 
over twenty-two years before Marshall picked up 
at Coloma the nugget which started California's 
rush. Two men, known as Rocky Mountain Jack 
and Bill Reed, spent the summer of 1860 at Mono 
Diggings, near Mono Lake. Both declared that 
they were there in 1825 with Jedediah Smith, and 
that the party spent a week prospecting during 
that earlier period. In a volume listing the names 
of Smith's party, the name of Reed appears, to- 
gether with several Johns, one of whom may have 
been identical with Rocky Mountain Jack. 

Peter Ogden, a trapper for the Hudson Bay 
Company, came through Nevada in 1831, and is 
said to have followed the route previously taken 
by Smith. 

Then came Captain Joe AValker — Joseph Rud- 
deford Walker, to give him the full name appear- 
ing in the annals of the Missouri town of 


Independence. Walker's home was there, as were 
those of Smith, already mentioned, and Chiles, 
who was to lead the next expedition this way. It 
was the westernmost frontier settlement and the 
starting point of the sunset trails. In 1832 Walker 
left there as a lieutenant of Capt. Bonneville, in 
the latter 's company of 110 picked men, with ex- 
ploration of the country around and beyond Great 
Salt Lake as their purpose. The party divided at 
that lake, and Walker with part of the command 
kept on westward. They finally reached Mon- 
terey. Richman marks his route as being through 
Owens Valley; another writer claims that he 
skirted the eastern base of the White Mountains 
and crossed Owens Valley southeast of Owens 
Lake. As his later guiding was unquestionably 
through the valley, it is probable that the earlier 
trip followed the same route. 

Joseph B. Chiles organized a company of 
about fifty, including a few women and children, 
in Independence, Missouri, in 1843, and started 
for California. Wagons were substituted for 
pack trains in this expedition. Walker was met 
at Fort Laramie, Wyoming, and Chiles employed 
him to guide the party through. On reaching 
Fort Hall, the two men decided to divide the party 
and take different routes, Walker selecting the one 
through Owens Valley. All the families were in 
his branch. He led them over his old course, via 
Walker Lake, and southward. Infinite hard- 
ships, says one of their writers, attended their 
journey to Owens Valley. They traveled down 
the east side of Owens River to the lake. Their 


livestock was so jaded when that point was 
reached that it became necessary to abandon the 
cumbersome wagons. Some sawmill machinery 
had been brought with the party, and this too 
was abandoned. The natives were terrorized at 
sight of the wagons, and fled to the hills. They 
made trouble but once, when a night guard named 
Milton Little was wounded with an arrow fired 
in the darkness. A later search w^as made for the 
wagons and machinery, but everything had been 
carried away. 

After abandoning the wagons, portable prop- 
erty was loaded on the animals able to carry it, 
and the company proceeded on foot to ''the point 
of the mountain," Owens Peak and Walker's 
Pass — the latter, like the lake and river, named 
for the leader of this expedition. Their hard- 
ships increased as they passed through the moun- 
tains, past the later site of Visalia and to the 
Gilroy rancho, which they reached in January, 
1844. One of the families in this party was that 
of George Yount, whose ranch in Napa County 
became the site of Yountville. 

This was the second wagon train to enter Cali- 
fornia from the east, though its vehicles did not 
cross the Sierras. The one before it was that of 
John Bidwell, traveling much farther north in 
1841. The Chiles-Walker expedition, landing in 
the Mexican settlements, strengthened the Mexi- 
can authorities in their fear of American invasion 
across the plains. 

There was an "old Spanish trail," of which 
we find no earlier record, however, into the State 


from the eastward. It became the route adopted 
by Mormon emigrants to San Bernardino, and was 
used until after the Mountain Meadows massacre. 
A branch of the trail reached Resting Springs, in 
Inyo County. These springs, first known as the 
Archilette, were given the name they still bear 
from the use made of them by Mormon travelers 
who tarried there to recuperate their livestock 
on journeys across the waste. 

To the Archilette came John C. Fremont, the 
Pathfinder, on April 19, 1844. He found there a 
lone survivor of a party of Mexicans who had 
been attacked by Indians. Fremont rechristened 
the springs ''Agua de Hernandez," for the 
rescued man. An old sword, supposed to have 
been lost by one of Fremont's men, was found in 
that vicinity more than forty years later. Decay 
had destroyed its handle, and the blade was firmly 
nisted into the sheath ; the weapon was of the pat- 
tern used in Fremont's day. 

Once more the name of Walker, whom some 
of his contemporaries refer to as one of the best 
and bravest of mountain men, appears in the local 
record, and with it, that of Richard Owens. Fre- 
mont left Bent's Fort, on the Oregon trail in 
Colorado, in the late summer of 1845, with sixty 
men, including several Delaware Indians. Some- 
where on the way he met Walker and Owens and 
added them to the party, ''with great satisfac- 
tion," he notes. 

As Fremont gave the name of Owens to the 
Inyo County river, valley and lake, it is of interest 
to note the tribute paid in the Pathfinder's 


Memoirs to that adventurer's capabilities and 
value. ' ' He was a good mountaineer, good hunter 
and good shot; cool, brave and of good judg- 
ment. ' ' He was an officer in the later skirmishing 
in southern California. When Fremont was haled 
to Washington to account for some of his actions, 
Owens went as one of his principal witnesses. 
Owens did not see the river or valley that bear his 
name. Fremont did the naming, after the expedi- 
tion reached the San Joaquin Valley. 

The whole company traveled together until 
Walker Lake was reached, November 23, 1845. 
The Indians found there were not friendly, but 
made no hostile demonstration. A party of Piutes 
was met as Fremont rode near the lake, the two 
bands of men passing but a short distance apart. 
The Indians did not look up, and gave no sign 
of knowing that the white men were in the neigh- 
borhood. Fremont's belief was that his party 
were regarded as intruders, or else that the na- 
tives had received some recent injury. 

Fremont, Owens, Kit Carson and twelve others 
went north to cross the Sierras along the Truckee, 
then called the Salmon Trout Eiver. Theodore 
Talbot commanded the main party of about fifty, 
one of whom was Edward M. Kern, artist and 
topographer, whose name was given to our neigh- 
boring county. This branch stayed at Walker 
Lake until December 8th, and reached ''the head 
of Owens Eiver," (locality not definitely stated) 
on the 16th. They followed the river to the lake, 
near which they camped from the 19th to the 21st, 
then going on southerly and through Walker's 


For many years a mound of stones some three 
or four feet high stood beside the road a short 
distance north of Independence. Popular tradi- 
tion held that it marked the burial place of one 
of the Fremont-Talbot expedition who died in 
this valley. The belief is doubtless erroneous. 
Evidence indicates that the route of travel was 
closer to the river; and aside from this, the site 
of the cairn was on very stony ground, while 
ground much easier to dig was but a short dis- 
tance away. An alternative explanation is easier 
of acceptance ; that the monument was an Indian 
boundary mark, on a line between the Piute 
Monument and a Sierra pinnacle which soldiers 
ascended in 1862, but which stands no longer. 
Whatever the origin of the mound, it has been de- 







Next in Inyo annals comes the tragic story of 
the pioneers who, seeking a short route to Cali- 
fornia, marked their way across the deserts with 
abandoned equipages, lonely graves or unburied 
corpses, and found in Death Valley the culmina- 
tion of their miseries and misfortunes. 

A writer of the period said that the overland 
trail could be traced by the headboards and 
mounds above the bodies of its victims. Disease 
and hardships, the arrows of hostile Indians, and 
sometimes Mormondom's ''destroying angels," 
all did their shares toward justifying this asser- 
tion. Hundreds, who set forth in hope, were laid 
to rest by the wayside, their lonely graves more 
often visited by pariah coyotes or trampled by bi- 
son than seen by human beings. The full tale of 
those journeyings has never been told. Here and 
there some special tragedy found a place in the 
blood-stained history of pioneering. None exceed 
in horror the truth about those who perished at 
the verge of the promised land, the Donner party 



famishing in Sierra snows and the Death Valley 
party starving in the desert. 

The record of the Death Valley party is found 
in the narratives of W. L. Manley, Mrs. Brier, J. 
B. Colton, Edward Coker and Thomas Shannon, 
all of whom were of the party ; of P. A. Chalf ant, 
founder of the Inyo Independent and Inyo Regis- 
ter, who was with it during part of the journey; 
and of others having more or less information. 
There is not always agreement between the 
stories, and sometimes a rewriting must choose 
between contradictory statements. 

The nucleus of the expedition was a band of 
young men from Galesburg, Illinois, who organ- 
ized to make the trip to the newly discovered land 
of gold. They were youths of buoyant spirits, 
and anticipated a journey of pleasure rather than 
hardships. The name of "Jayhawkers" was 
adopted, for some reason not explained by any 
of them. An impromptu initiation ceremony was 
used to test the fortitude of applicants for the 
undertaking. The candidate was first carried 
around the camp on the shoulders of four men. He 
then bared one leg to the knee and stood upright 
while he repeated a vow that he would stand by 
his comrades through all perils. Following this 
a small bit of flesh was nipped from his bare leg; 
this was done twice more, and if he showed a lack 
of fortitude on any of these tests he was deemed 
unworthy of membership. Little did those care- 
free young fellows dream the nature of the hard- 
ships they were to encounter. A few of them 
failed; most of them proved their worth. 


Some additions to the train had been made by 
the time Salt Lake City was reached. All such 
travelers remained in the Mormon capital for 
some time, recruiting their livestock, securing sup- 
plies, and otherwise preparing for the unknown 
journey ahead. The Jayhawkers reached there 
in July, 1849, and remained until toward the end 
of September. More emigrants joined the train 
in Salt Lake, until when the caravan was finally 
complete, at a rendezvous about 100 miles south 
of the city, it comprised 107 wagons and about 500 
head of stock. No account states the number of 
persons. The original Jayhawkers numbered 
thirty-six. In the expedition as finally made up 
there were several times as many, with members 
from Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, and nearly all the 
western states and territories. 

One of the subdivisions amalgamated into the 
great caravan was known as 'Hhe San Francisco 
party," which had started from Omaha with 
forty-five wagons, June 6th. It was somewhat 
elaborately organized, with constitution and by- 
laws, and with some of the characteristics of 
a military expedition. John Brophy was its 
"colonel," Judge Haun bore the title of ''major," 
and Rev. J. W. Brier was designated as ''chap- 
lain." One of its younger members was P. A. 
Chalfant, father of the compiler of this record. 

It was decided to divide the expedition into 
seven different companies. Some of the units 
already had their organizations; the small com- 
panies and detached individuals not thus included 
were formed into new commands. The Jayhawk- 


ers, after long argument, decided against allow- 
ing any women or children in their division, and 
the families which had joined them made np a 
separate party. To this there was one exception. 
Rev. Brier preferring the Jayhawkers to the party 
with which he had come and declaring that he 
and his wife and children would stay with the 
Illinois men in any case. From the fact that the 
Brier family traveled apart from the Jayhawkers 
during parts of the subsequent journey it is prob- 
able that his welcome in their camps was not 

All went well until a point about 250 miles from 
Salt Lake was reached. Some one got hold of a 
copy of one of Fremont's maps showing the route 
across Walker's Pass. It indicated that 600 miles 
of travel would be saved by following Fremont's 
course, instead of going farther north. Its advo- 
cates also cited the fate of the Donner party, 
caught in midwinter in the Sierras. It would 
seem that this last argument was intended for 
the San Francisco party, which decided on the 
northernmost route, and which completed its 
journey by entering California through Beckwith 
(or Beckwourth) Pass late in the year, mthout 
special hardships. 

The guide for the whole expedition was Jef- 
ferson Hunt, a Mormon leader. The travelers 
had been urged, in Salt Lake, to take a southerly 
route, as the Mormons were anxious to have a 
road established by which they could reach cer- 
tain Spanish-grant lands in southern California. 
Hunt was to conduct them to Los Angeles, and 
to receive $12 per wagon as pay. 


When the order was made excluding families 
from the Jayhawker train two of the men who left 
it with their wives and children were Asabel Ben- 
nett and J. B. Arcane. Manly, who has left the 
most complete record, chose to go with Bennett, 
his close friend. This party traveled more or less 
independently of the Jayhawkers, though taking 
the same general course and experiencing similar 
hardships. While the two bands were together at 
different times, their experiences during much of 
the journey were separate stories. 

The final disintegration of the big caravan 
took place at what was then named Poverty Point, 
in the Wasatch Mountains. The road ended in 
steep precipices. The Jayhawkers insisted on 
finding a way down and went on in spite of 
Hunt's warnings, taking with them twenty-seven 
wagons, including those of Bennett and Arcane. 
As already noted, the San Francisco party had 
previously struck out independently. Those who, 
at Poverty Point, accepted Hunt's advice were led 
south and safely into southern California. They 
have no further place in this story, and our later 
narration pertains to the Jayhawkers and the off- 
shoots that took the same general course as they 

The last camping place in Utah was beside a 
playa lake. The desert-wise know such places — 
absolutely flat spreads of land which after heavy, 
though rare, storms are covered with a few inches 
of water. When they dry out to level smoothness, 
seen from a distance they resemble calm surfaces 
of water. Each of the '49 parties wasted both 


time and strength in vain deviations to reach such 
supposed bodies of water. 

Manly drove no team, but acted as a general 
scout. At the Utah camp he ascended the highest 
near point, and on returning to camp reported a 
belief that there was no water ahead for a hun- 
dred miles. Doty, the Jayhawker captain, ad- 
mitted discouragement at this, but decided to go 
ahead on the same course. The next morning his 
men and their twenty wagons pulled out, leaving 
Bennett, Arcane, Manly and associates in camp 
with seven. 

Doty traveled five days without finding water, 
and by then his party had used all that had been 
brought from the playa lake. A subdivision 
headed by a man named Martin struck out on a 
different route from the one followed by Doty the 
next day. The latter 's plight, while sorry enough, 
was less desperate than it was to become. Toward 
morning of that night's camp, the sky clouded and 
a little snow fell. Enough of this was caught and 
melted to satisfy men and animals and to provide 
a little reserve. 

No more water was found until the Amargosa 
(meaning bitter) river bed was reached. That 
stream is on rare occasions a torrent of large 
volume, but for part of its course is usually lost 
in the sands. The Doty men found a slight trickle 
of bitter fluid, and drank it freely. The water, 
heavily charged with minerals, made them ill, and 
they left the stream and struck out toward a pass 
ahead. They were near the eastern base of the 
Funeral range, later christened for one of the 
tragedies of this expedition. 


All the courage the party could muster was 
needed in reaching the summit. The way grew 
steeper. Debris and washouts filled the canyons, 
through which probably no human being, except 
possibly Indians, had ever passed. Men and oxen 
were weakened by the chemicals taken at the Am- 
argosa. One of the oxen died on the way up, and 
its carcass was the last to be left without being 
utilized for food. Even that one was not wholly 
wasted, for a straggler of the expedition cut a 
steak from it. After two days of struggle the 
party stood on the summit and looked down into 
one of nature's freaks — Death Valley. 

The train toiled down the pass, and on the 
third day reached some springs around which 
some coarse grass grew. Realizing that the oxen 
could not take the wagons farther, the party 
camped and prepared to finish the journey in the 
lightest possible marching order. Wagons were 
abandoned, and their woodwork was used to feed 
the fires over which the stringy flesh of the oxen 
was dried. Rice, tea and coffee were measured 
out by the spoonful, with an understanding that 
thereafter each individual must look out for him- 
self and expect no help from anyone else. The can- 
vas of the wagon covers was fashioned into knap- 
sacks, and powder cans were set in slings to serve 
as canteens, none of the latter having been in- 
cluded in the equipment. Moccasins were made 
from the hides of slain animals, for the men and 
for the tender-footed among the surviving oxen. 

The Martin party, which had branched off 
some daj^s before, and the Bennett-Arcane sub- 


division both came into camp while these prepara- 
tions were under way. 

The Briers, traveling by themselves despite 
the father's objections, had reached Forty-Mile 
Canyon, in eastern Nevada, when the storm oc- 
curred that gave Doty water enough to enable 
him to reach the Amargosa. They remained there 
for a week to recuperate, though the oxen suffered 
much from cold. On leaving, the oxen were laden 
with necessities and the wagons were burned, to- 
gether with everything that was not considered 
necessary for traveling. Mrs. Brier, writing in 
later years, termed this action a fatal step. Some- 
where between there and Death Valley the Briers 
fell in with the Bennett-Manly train. On the way 
they came upon a number of small squashes, 
cached by Indians, and took them. In view of the 
scarcity of provender among the Indians of that 
dreary region, it is not surprising that the na- 
tives sought vengeance, to the extent of a night 
attack on the camp. Arrows were shot into three 

This party entered Death Valley by rounding 
the southern end of the Funerals, instead of toil- 
ing across as the Jayhawkers had. Mrs. Brier's 
account tells that her oldest boy. Kirk, aged nine 
years, gave out. She carried him on her back 
until he said he could walk. He made a manful 
effort, stumbling along for a while, then sank 
down and cried that he could go no farther. His 
heroic mother would then pick him up and carry 
him again. Though often falling to her knees 
from weakness, she got her little brood safely 
into the Death Valley camp. 


The Martin party did not tarry. They were 
in marching order, and on leaving gave all their 
oxen to the Bennett-Brier camp, saying they 
could progress better without them. Martin 
struck out straight westward, his men carrying 
on their backs the things they deemed essential. 
While they were crossing one of the ranges, a 
man named Ischam, who had left the Doty party, 
as will be hereafter mentioned, struggled into 
their camp and died there. They crossed to the 
south of Saline Valley and reached Owens Lake. 
Hostile Indians were found at the lake and some 
skirmishing resulted, without harm to anyone. 
While they were there a snow fell and no fire 
could be made. Believing the lake to be of the 
playa kind, like so many with which they had be- 
come familiar on the desert, they were about to 
undertake to wade it, when one of the party found 
the old trail made by Walker's last party. A 
friendly Indian advised them to follow it, which 
they did, through Walker's Pass to safety. 

From the accounts it appears clear that the 
Jayhawkers under Doty struck out from the 
Death Valley camp without encouraging Bennett 
and his party to accompany them. Brier again re- 
fused to accept dismissal, and forced himself and 
family in with them. Two days later Doty re- 
joined Bennett, and the two subdivisions were to- 
gether at some camps, apart at others. The 
Jayhawkers' departure was, therefore, not a de- 
sertion but a following out of the plan of travel 
all the way. 

Dotv believed that the best way out was to the 


northward. On the way he found good water. He 
turned westerly from that spring and climbed the 
Panamint range. They came upon the body of an 
ox, for which none of the stories account. They 
cut out what seemed to be the best of the meat, 
but after making a supper from it the remainder 
was thrown away. Darkness came on before they 
found a camping place, and to their astonishment 
they saw a fire ahead. They found at it a traveler 
who had wandered from one of the other parties. 

They expected that the next day would reveal 
the valley of Los Angeles, west of the range they 
were climbing. Instead, on reaching the summit 
they beheld another lake, which they concluded to 
be another saline deposit. This was probably in 
Panamint Valley. The party divided, and each 
person made his own way across the valley. Some 
found good water; others found a supply of mes- 
quite beans, in which unfortunately they saw no 
food value. On the west, or probably southwest, 
side the party reunited and toiled up a canyon. 
Near its head wet ground gave hope of finding 
water, but digging produced no results. Here 
one of the men, named Fish, died, and his body 
was left lying upon the ground. 

A gentle grade sloped down from the next 
summit. A large lake was visible far to the left; 
from the descriptions given, this was probably 
Searles borax lake. Half way down the slope 
Ischam gave out, and was left. A little farther on 
one of the scattered men found a small spring of 
good water and called the others to it. 

Here there is a contradiction in the accounts. 


The statement has been made that Ischam wan- 
dered into the Martin camp, and died there, and 
that this was at a point from which "Owens Lake 
was reached. Colton's story is that from the 
spring mentioned in the last paragraph, certainly 
many miles south of Martin's course, a detach- 
ment went back to rescue Ischam. They found 
him alive, but with his tongue and throat so sw^ol- 
len that he could not swallow the water they gave 
him. While the rescuers were with him, says 
Colton, he died, and was buried in a shallow grave 
in the sand. Wherever this victim of the desert 
breathed his last, doubtless more than one of 
those with him wondered how soon his owm turn 
would come to sink to rest in the desert and see, 
with scarcely comprehending eyes, his comrades 
pass on to escape a like fate. 

An ox was killed at this spring, and the party 
was refreshed by the rest, good water and such 
poor sustenance as the carcass afforded. Pro- 
ceeding, the party came upon a trail at a point 
south of Walker's Pass. Mindful of the Donner 
party's fate in the winter of 1846-7, Doty feared 
to undertake to cross the Sierras, the snow- 
crowned summits of which were visible ahead, so 
he turned south. At another spring some bunch 
grass was found, and the emaciated oxen were 
given a day's rest. One of them was slaughtered. 
Such were the straits of the men that hardly a 
part of the animal was wasted. The blood was 
saved for food. The intestines were cleansed with 
the fingers; the hair was singed from the hide, 
and all was roasted and eaten. One man softened 


the end of a liorii in the fire and gnawed the 
softened part. Many bones of cattle were seen 
along the trail, evidence that others — possibly 
the Mexicans who did some journeying into the 
desert — had come to grief in the same region. A 
man wandered from this camp, and was supposed 
to have perished until he was found in an Indian 
camp, years afterward. 

The Brier family reached this camp before 
Doty left it, and were given portions of the slain 
ox. While Mrs. Brier was preparing a piece of 
liver for her children, a famishing Jayhawker 
took it from them while her attention was di- 
verted. Such cases were few ; the ordeals brought 
out more unselfishness than the reverse. 

No other water supply was found for four or 
five days, while the worn travelers slowly made 
their way over the seemingly endless desert. The 
trail grew fainter and at last was wholly lost. 
Again small bands branched off to hunt for water. 
In one of these bands was Thomas Shannon. He 
started a jackrabbit from a bush and shot it. 
Drinking its blood he became delirious and was 
so found by a comrade who had come on a supply 
of water. A drink of water improved Shannon's 
condition, and the men made a meal from the first 
wholesome food they had had for days. All the 
others rallied to the spot except a man named 
Robinson, who died before reaching it and was 
left in his blankets. 

Another day's journey brought them to snow, 
and on February 4, 1850, they reached running 
streams and pleasant surroundings. Three wild 


mustangs were killed, supplying a hearty meal. 
Going on, the adventurers came to where many 
cattle ranged. Two animals soon fell before their 
guns. While they were feasting, two Mexicans 
approached, and proved friendly enough when 
they found that the marauders were not Indians 
as they had thought. From then on the Doty 
party members were cared for, and scattered to 
different parts of the State. 

Having seen the Doty party to safety, we re- 
turn to note the misfortunes of Bennett, Manly, 
Arcane and associates. Manly scouted far in ad- 
vance, and while so doing he came on the carcass 
of an ox, from the thigh of which some meat had 
been cut. The sun had dried the flesh at the edge 
of the cut, and Manly made a meal of this raw 
dried beef. On Christmas Day he returned to the 
Brier camp, at that time distant from Doty's. He 
records that Brier was delivering a lecture on 
education, his family being his sole audience — a 
strange proceeding, Manly remarks, considering 
that the sole need at the time seemed to be some- 
thing to sustain life. 

Brier started on the next morning, and Manly 
found some scraps of bacon that had been thrown 
away at the camp. They seemed to him the best 
morsels he had ever tasted. Bennett's wagons 
were some miles back, and he rejoined them. 
Wild geese were heard overhead at night, and this 
was interpreted to mean that Owens Lake could 
not be far away. The next day he walked over 
the salt-crusted floor of Death Valley, and at dusk 
reached the campfire of the Doty party, then pre- 


paring to abandon their wagons. Meantime Ben- 
nett's gaunt oxen had dragged the wa-gons to 
Furnace Creek, to which he returned. The next 
stopping place was the "last camp," the location 
of which was much debated in after years. 
Manly 's record indicates the spot as follows: 
Camped at a faint stream since named Furnace 
Creek ; out of the canyon and into the valley ; due 
south, distance not stated ; across to the west side ; 
the second night from Furnace Creek at a spring 
of good water coming from a high mountain 
which he says is now called Telescope Peak, This 
was the real "last camp." The party journeyed 
eight miles farther, reaching a sulphur spring on 
the top of a curious mound, from which return 
was made to the good water. 

There was, however, more than one of the 
"last camps." The Jayhawkers burned their 
wagons a few miles from Furnace Creek, at a 
place later called Lost Wagons. The Bennett 
camp, most prominent of all because of the long 
stay made there and the prolonged hardships of 
its occupants, was undoubtedly at Bennett's 
Wells, on the west side of Death Valley sink, and 
260 feet below sea level. The water is brackish 
with salt and sulphate of soda, but is usable. 

Four of the ox-team drivers concluded to 
strike out for themselves. Two of these were 
named Helmer and Abbott. It is probable that 
one of these was the individual whom the Jay- 
hawkers picked up in the mountains. Two others 
later came into the Jayhawker camps, without 
having fared any better than those they had de- 


After Bennett and party had gone back from 
the sulphur spring to Last Camp, a council de- 
cided that the only chance of getting any of the 
expedition through alive was to send out two of 
the strongest men as a forlorn hope, while the 
main party remained to await their return. W. L. 
Manly and John Rogers were selected for the un- 
dertaking. An ox which had given out was killed ; 
so scanty was its flesh that seven-eighths of all of 
it was packed into the knapsacks of the two men. 
Two spoonfuls of rice and the same amount of tea 
was added to their stock, and after a parting 
which might prove to be the last they set out. 

Those remaining in camp were Bennett, wife 
and three children; Arcane, wife and son; Cap- 
tain Culverwell; two Earhart brothers; and four 
other grown persons, besides a Mr. and Mrs. 
Wade and their three children, who traveled the 
same course as the others but kept in a camp of 
their own. The Brier family were traveling in a 
free-lance fashion, as has been set forth, not ac- 
ceptable to the Jayhawkers and not choosing to 
join Bennett and Arcane. 

The second day out Manly and Rogers found 
the body of Fish on the trail, and saw the holes 
the Jayhawkers had dug without finding water. 
Another range of mountains was crossed before 
Rogers found a little sheet ice, which they melted. 
The next night they overtook Doty and his men 
and were supplied with meat and water to relieve 
their immediate distress. They traveled on ahead, 
passing the advanced members of the Jayhawkers 
and noting the skulls of horses by the wayside. 


One day after another the story was much the 
same until they reached fresh water in the south- 
ern Sierras. A crow, a hawk and a quail were the 
first fresh meat they obtained; all three birds 
were stewed together. On the last day of Decem- 
ber, 1849, or the first day of January, 1850, the 
men emerged from a barren valley into a meadow 
on which cattle were grazing. A rifle shot soon 
supplied them with food. A traveler named 
Springer, on his way to the mines to the north, 
was met, and gave them further necessities. 
Reaching a ranch near San Fernando Mission 
they obtained two horses, small sacks of beans, 
wheat, coarse flour, and some dried meat. From 
another stockman they bought a mule and a horse, 
and with this equipment took the back track for 
Death Valley. The three horses gave out one af- 
ter another, the mule being the only animal able 
to stand the hardships of the trip. The body of 
Captain Culverwell was found as they neared 
Last Camp. 

Seven wagons had been there when they left; 
only four were seen as the anxious envoys looked 
from afar. The canvas covers were gone. Had 
hostile Indians exterminated the unfortunates, or 
had they taken three of the wagons and started in 
some other direction? Manly and Rogers ap- 
proached within a hundred yards without seeing a 
sign of life; then Manly fired a shot. All was 
quiet for a few minutes, until a man crawled from 
under a wagon and looked around. His shout, 
''The boys have come!" electrified the camp, as 
well may be imagined. Bennett and Arcane caught 


the returned men in their arms, and Mrs. Bennett 
fell upon her knees and clung to Manly. Not a 
word was spoken, in the great emotion o-f all, until 
Mrs. Bennett exclaimed, "I know you have found 
some place, for you have a mule." It was some 
time before anyone could say anything without 
weeping. It had been twenty-six days since the 
forlorn hope had started out. All but the Bennett 
and Arcane families had abandoned the camp. 
Culverwell had set out with the last party before 
Manly and Eogers returned, but did not get far. 

Wagons were abandoned, and the little proces- 
sion set out for the land of running water and 
wholesome food. The children were slung in im- 
provised "aparejos," made of stout shirts sewn 
together and thrown across the backs of oxen. The 
extreme emaciation of the animals did not prevent 
their bucking because of the unusual burden, and 
another camp had to be made to straighten out 
the tangle. The next day the party took its last 
view of the dreary surroundings, someone utter- 
ing: ''Good-bye, Death Valley!" This appears 
to be the correct story of its naming. 

The oxen became reconciled to their loads, and 
the women walked. In one place it became neces- 
sary to lower the beasts over a precipice by means 
of their crude canvas harness. Day by day the 
party moved along, with the important advantage 
over former experiences that they now had a bet- 
ter supply of food and some idea of their course. 
These facts did not, however, keep some of the 
weaker members from giving up hope, in spite of 
the assurances of Manly and Eogers, until dis- 


couragement finally ruled almost as it had before. 
Men, women and children were wasted, almost 
barefoot, and in tatters. The little ones cried for 
water that was not to be had. At last the melan- 
choly procession passed through Red Eock Can- 
yon and to a joyous resting place at springs not 
far from the southern end of that strangely sculp- 
tured defile. Strengthened and heartened, they 
pressed on, reaching snow in the Sierras nineteen 
days after leaving Death Valley. Toll was taken 
from the first herd of cattle found, and they were 
soon being cared for by the generous hospitality 
of the pioneer settlers. 

This is a concentration of the most reliable 
accounts of that fearful experience. As stated 
earlier, there are contradictions without any sure 
indication of the true version ; there are tales dif- 
fering considerably from and doubtless less cor- 
rect than this narration. Allowing for the differ- 
ences mentioned, it is the story of the participants 
themselves, hence to be accepted beyond any of 
the distortions and variations which have crept 
into print at one time or another. J. B. Colton, 
of the Jayhawkers, wrote that four of his party 
perished in the Funeral Mountains, and that the 
range got its name from that fact. All other ac- 
counts agree that his detachment, commanded by 
Doty, reached the Panamint Range, west of Death 
Valley, before any of its members died, and that 
the death of Robinson, one of the four, occurred 
not far from the base of the Sierras. Colton stated 
that a dozen stragglers followed the expedition 
into Death Valley and that all perished from 


thirst and starvation; and that another train of 
thirty persons lowered their wagons into Death 
Valley by means of ropes and that all but two or 
three died while hunting for water. Having in 
mind the care with which Manly reviewed all de- 
tails, his traveling back and forth between the 
parties, his having been over the ground after 
Colton and associates had gone on, and the fact 
that he makes no mention of these occurrences, 
the Colton account lacks confirmation and seems 

While the foregoing travel details tell of but 
three of the seven companies, it is to be remem- 
bered that (according to Manly) the rest went 
southward with Hunt and reached Los Angeles 
safely. There may have been individuals who 
struck out independently on the Jayhawkers ' trail 
and fared badly. Some names are mentioned 
more or less casually in one or another of the ac- 
counts without statement of what befell them. The 
Wade family is mentioned as being near Last 
Camp, without information as to what became of 
its members; likewise a Mr. To^vne and family 
(hence Towne's Pass, in the Funeral Range) were 
connected with the expedition in some way not 

Different accounts say that eleven men left the 
Jayhawkers far east of Death Valley and that all 
but two perished. Manly explicitly states that 
these nine, the four Jayhawkers who died after 
leaving Death Valley, and Captain Culverwell 
summed up the death list. Whatever others may 
have died there later, the evidence is that Culver- 


well was the only one who died in Death" Valley 

Every account of the expedition pays tribute 
to Mrs. Brier. "She was a better man than her 
husband," wrote one. Manly says: ''All agreed 
that she was the best man in the (Brier) party. 
She was the one who put the packs on the oxen in 
the morning. She it was who took them off at 
night, built the fires, helped the children, cooked 
the food, and did all sorts of work when the father 
of the family was too tired, which was almost all 
the time. It seemed almost impossible that one 
little woman could do so much. It was entirely 
due to her untiring devotion that her husband and 
children lived." 

It is to be borne in mind that this grim tragedy 
occurred in midwinter, at the most favorable time 
of year for such a journey. The furnace-like heat 
that means death to travelers lost in that inferno 
was missing at that season; the dangers were in 
lack of water and sustenance. East of Death Val- 
ley lie hundreds of miles of desert, and every 
resource of the Forty-Niners was dangerously 
reduced. Had the expedition been undertaken in 
midsummer, probably few of the members would 
have survived to reach Death Valley, and none 
would have passed that formidable barrier. 

Dr. S. G. George and party, visiting Death 
Valley in 1860, found unmistakable traces of the 
Death Valley party. Indians had drawn, on a 
smooth clay bed near one of the camps, a record 
of the occurrence. Men and women were shown, 
with children slung in bags across the backs of 


oxen, in single file, headed in the direction taken 
by Bennett. No rain had destroyed the .drawings 
in a decade. Numerous relics were found and 
given to different collections. Iron work of wag- 
ons, chains, cooking utensils and other articles 
were picked up by different visitors, many of the 
metal objects as free from rust as on the day they 
were discarded. Most of such finds went to the 
Society of California Pioneers, and like all else of 
interest in the society's museum were lost in the 
great fire of 1906. 

The bones of animals noted by Manly and 
Doty indicated that earlier travelers had braved 
the same perils. It is alleged that the Mexicans 
traveled the wastes, as "the old Spanish trail" 
goes to show, and probably they were the prin- 
cipal sufferers. There may have been other ven- 
turesome souls who, like many in later years on 
those deserts, simply dropped from human ken. 

The George party found parts of skeletons 
near one of the springs. In one place a woman's 
skeleton, partly covered by a ragged calico gar- 
ment, was found. 

The Jayhawkers, though scattered to many 
different localities, held occasional reunions for 
many years. The last of these was at Mrs. Brier's 
home at Lodi, California, in 1911. Five of the 
party were living at that time, and three of them 
attended the reunion. Mrs. Brier died in 1913, 
at the age of 99 years. Manly died in San Jose in 
1903, aged 83. 



FOUND — VON Schmidt's survey 1855-1856 — reserva- 

Russ district first civil government — "wakopee" 
— coso and telescope mines. 

After the Forty-Niners had walked in partner- 
ship with tragedy through Death Valley, a new 
period of Inyo history began. To call it a decade 
of exploration seems out of proportion, since we 
speak of but a single county; but the term seems 
less inappropriate when it is recalled that the 
county's borders inclose over ten thousand square 
miles of diversified surface. 

The Mormons had begun an effort to establish 
an outpost of their faith at San Bernardino. To 
reach it, a route was laid out across the ** leagues 
of cacti and sand and stars," through southern 
Nevada, entering California at the southeastern 
corner of the Inyo of today. Part of ''the old 
Spanish trail" was utilized by the saints. The 
springs which Fremont, in 1844, named Agua de 
Hernandez, for a Mexican found there after his 
companions had been killed by Indians, were not 
far from the route of travel. A short side trip to 
the spot afforded a place where grass and water 
helped to recuperate stock exhausted by the long 
desert journey. It was renamed Resting Springs, 



and still bears that title. Philander Lee was to 
use the flow from the springs, years later, to irri- 
gate a 200-acre ranch; at that time the water 
nourished a goodly meadow. 

Mormon emigrants are said to have discov- 
ered, at a point twenty-five miles south of the 
springs, the first gold mine found in the desert. 
This was in 1854. They named the rich quartz 
ledge the Amargosa. In later prospecting they 
discovered placer ground, and worked the earth 
by hauling it three or four miles in wagons, to 
some salt springs. 

Four years later the Mormons found silver 
ledges in the Panamints, and built a small furnace 
which produced some bullion. Its location was at 
Anvil Spring, some distance south of the later 
camp of Panamint. The prospectors had been 
sent out by the heads of the church. Furnace 
Creek is said to have derived its name from a 
similar enterprise. 

Occasional adventurers were crossing the Si- 
erras from the west. In 1853 Harry Edwards, an 
Indian agent, came into Owens Valley, if credence 
be placed in the headlines of San Francisco pa- 
pers; the printed text leaves in doubt whether 
Edwards actually came beyond Walker's Pass. 

The first official attention to the eastern slope 
of the Sierras appears to have begun with a con- 
tract dated May 30, 1855, between John C. Hays 
— Col. Jack Hays of Texan fame — ^who was then 
Surveyor of Public Lands of California, and 
A. W. Von Schmidt. The latter agreed to survey 
the public lands east of the Sierras and south of 


Mono Lake. His work began that summer, and 
under a supplemental contract was continued and 
completed the following year. The survey ex- 
tended from the Mount Diablo base line, a few 
miles south of Mono Lake, to a point south of 
Owens Lake, including the townships mapped as 
1 to 12 south and 31 to 35 east. The party, as 
enumerated in Von Schmidt's field notes, in- 
cluded, besides himself, R. E. K. Whiting, com- 
passman; Joseph Jefferson, E. Ross, E. Maginnis, 
J. W. Newton, chainmen; Henry Gardenier and 
E. S. Gersdorff, axmen. 

Von Schmidt's field notes are liberal in com- 
ments on the region ; his opinions are in many in- 
stances contradicted by the facts of present 
knowledge. Writing of Owens Valley he said : 

"Land entirely worthless with few exceptions. The only 
portion of any value is near the banks of the little streams 
of water coming from the Sierra Nevada mountains. This 
valley contains about 1000 Indians of the Mono tribe, and 
they are a fine looking set of men. They live prmcipally on 
pine nuts, fish and hares, which are very plenty. On the 
western edge of this valley I found great quantities of grouse; 
other game very scarce. On a general average the country 
forming Owens Valley is worthless to the white man, both in 
soil and climate." 

This note was dated July 15, 1855. The valley 
had, of course, no cultivation at that time, and ex- 
cept for natural meadows in lowland spots and 
occasional trees on the streams its stretches, gen- 
erally sagebrush covered, were not inviting to one 
fresh from the springtime aspect of the grassy 
and flowered hills of western California. 

Long Valley, with its miles of natural meadow 


and its delightful summer climate, impressed Mm 
much more favorably. '^ Splendid land for any 
purpose," he wrote; "soil first rate; fin'e grass, 
any quantity." However correct his estimate of 
the quality of that land may have been, he failed 
to take into account its 7,000 feet elevation and 
consequent winter severity. 

He found many Indians in that region. Natural 
wonders received this mention: 

"Fine pine timber scattered over the township. There are 
also some of the most remarkable boiling springs and geysers 
that I have ever met with on the eastern slope of the Sierras. 
I have no doubt but what these springs will be of great value 
for medicinal purposes, as I found large deposits of sulphur, 
iron, soda and alum. In the south portion there is consid- 
erable fine grass, but its principal value is in its fine pine 
timber and mineral springs." 

Another reference to the springs (those of 
Casa Diablo and Hot Creek) definitely asserts 
that they must have some connection with the or- 
thodox infernal regions. 

Von Schmidt found in Round Valley 

"land mostly level. Soil in general will average second rate, 
with fine grass, and also well watered, with but little pine 
timber on Indian Creek. I found many Indians in this frac- 
tional township, who live in deep mountain ravines and come 
down here for grass to eat; also to dig roots called 'sabouse' 
(taboose), which forms their principal article of food." 

"Laid off today to fight Indians," remarks the 
surveyor in one place. There was little trouble 
with the natives, however, and as a rule the party 
conducted its observations in peace. 

Now and then the field notes record that a 
township has fine streams of water, or that it is 


well covered with grass. With scarce- an excep- 
tion, however, the soil is classed as second or third 

The report of Thomas J. Henley, Superinten- 
dent of Indian Affairs in California, dated San 
Francisco, September 3, 1856, includes this refer- 

"A. W. Von Schmidt, Deputy United States Surveyor, rela- 
tive to the Mono Indians living on the east side of the Sierra 
Nevada, in Mariposa and Ttilare counties (the present Mono 
and Inyo) says: 'They are a fine looking race, straight and 
of good height, and appear to be active. They live in fami- 
lies scattered through the entire valley, and get their living in 
various ways, such as it is. Game is very scarce; some few 
antelope are to be found in the valley, but the bow and arrow 
is not the proper instinment for game of that description, 
even if it were plenty. Hares ai'e also found in some portions 
of the valley, which form their principal article of food in 
the meat line; but their principal article of food consists of 
clover and grass seeds, also of pine nuts, which I am told 
fail sometimes. 

" 'They can also get fish, of a small size, in Owens River 
(the lakes lOwens and Mono are both salt and have no fish). 
But with all this they are in poor condition. The families 
being divided off and each having his own hunting ground 
causes some to go without food for days. ,One chief told me 
that sometimes he had nothing to eat for six days at a time. 
I estimated the number to be about 1000 in the entire valley. 
They are in a state of nudity, with the exception of a small 
cloth about their loins, and so far as I can see are in want of 
every article of clothing.' " 

Indian Agent J. R. Vineyard reported from 
Tejon Agency, California, August 20, 1858, as 
follows : 

"A delegation of Indians from the region of Owens Lake, 
east of the Sierra, visited the reservation a short time since. 


The people of that region, so far as I can learn, number about 
1500. The delegation asked assistance to put in crops next 
season, also someone to instruct them in agriculture, etc. I 
would respectfully invite your attention to the subject, as 
they seem to be very sincere in their solicitations. I gave 
them presents of clothing and useful implements, and sent 
them back to their people, with the promise of transmitting 
their request to the great chief." 

The Indian population of Owens Valley was 
augmented in 1859 by fugitive Indians from Tule 
River, in Tulare County. Deeds of violence had 
been going on in that region for several years, 
culminating in a campaign. The temporary advan- 
tage of the first fighting between the natives and 
settlers who sallied forth from Visalia was with 
the Indians. Old settlers, whites, asserted in later 
years that the white men were the ones at fault; 
the red warriors acted in a manner supporting 
this claim, for in their cabin-burnings and other 
depredations they attacked those who had taken 
the field against them. The war of a sununer ended 
when soldiers from Fort Miller assisted the set- 
tlers in inflicting severe punishment, whether well 
deserved or not, on the marauding reds. This has 
properly a place in this history only because it 
sent into this county numbers of Indians with a 
ready-made and burning hatred of the white man 
and prepared to take part in keeping him out of 
Owens Valley. It appears in fact that the 
worst elements among the Owens Valley Indians 
throughout the Indian war were renegades from 
other regions. 

The events mentioned played a part in causing 
an order by the national government, in February, 


1859, suspending from settlement township 13 
south, range 35 east, Mount Diablo base and 
meridian, this area extending from a point west 
of Independence to the eastern foothills, and from 
about three miles north of that point to an almost 
equal distance south. The order of suspension, 
which stated that the land was withdrawn pending 
decision as to making it the location of an Indian 
reservation, was not revoked until 1864. As will 
be further disclosed, the idea of making Owens 
Valley an Indian reservation persisted in official 
circles almost up to the time of the revocation 
mentioned. It was the purpose of several agents, 
and of a bill introduced by Senator Latham in 

During the summer of 1858 a Tulare man 
named J. H. Johnson and five comrades were 
piloted across Kearsarge Pass, west of Indepen- 
dence, by a Digger Indian named Sampson — the 
latter a chief whose name was given to Sampson's 
Flats, where many years later Bandits Sontag 
and Evans held the center of the stage very 
briefly. When Johnson and his party reached 
this slope the Piutes were found to be hostile, and 
two Indians were killed in a skirmish. Their arms 
were bows and arrows and clubs. 

After the secularization of the California mis- 
sions, many of the neophytes became renegades 
and joined the Indians of the southern Sierras on 
the western slope. They raided the scattered 
ranchos, driving away horses for food purposes, 
until the designation of Horsethief Indians was 
generally used as their tribal name. Owens Valley, 


known but vaguely, was supposed to be one of 
their strongholds. In July, 1859, a military ex- 
pedition was organized at Fort Tejon to 'explore 
the valley, investigate the character of its inhabi- 
tants, and recover stolen stock. A correspondent 
accompanied the detachment, and an article from 
his pen was published in the Los Angeles Star of 
August 27, 1859, under the headlines, ''Military 
Expedition to Owens Lake — No Stock in the Val- 
ley — Indians Peaceable and Reliable — Discovery 
of a New Route to Salt Lake." From it we learn 
that the expedition was commanded by Lieut. Col. 
Beall, who took a detachment of Co. K, First 
Dragoons, with Capt. Davidson and Lieut. Chap- 
man as next in command. They started from Fort 
Tejon July 21, 1859, with rations for thirty days, 
a wagon, a howitzer and a pack train. Traveling 
via Walker's Basin, the Kern River mines, up the 
south fork of the Kern, and through Walker's 
Pass they came to Owens Lake. They found a 
fine meadow of 800 to 1,000 acres at the foot of 
the lake, and little or no meadow at any other 
one spot on its shores. The ' ' emphatically saline ' ' 
character of the lake water received comment ; so 
also did "myriads of small flies over the water. 
The winds drive the larvae in large quantities 
upon the shore of the lake, where they are easily 
collected by the squaws." 

The correspondent in speaking of Owens River 
says that the Indians call it "Wakopee." This is 
so similar in sound to "Waucoba" as to justify 
a surmise that the latter word may have had a 
more general application in the original naming 


of this region tlian has been commonly adopted or 

The expedition found *' beautiful streams of 
clear, cold water, irrigating beautiful and fertile 
sections of the valley for the following sixty-two 
miles from Pine Creek, principal among which 
are Clark's and Dragon forks, either of which 
supplies nearly as much water at this season of 
the year as does the Kern River." "One of the 
greatest aqueous curiosities of the trip," says the 
letter, ''was a single spring, to which was given 
the name of Mammoth, from which runs a stream 
of water with a fair current fifteen or twenty feet 
wide and about two and one-half feet deep." Later 
residents know this as Black Rock Spring. 

The correspondent writes : 

"Although for some distance below the lake we encountered 
temporaiy abodes of the Indians, yet in no instance were the 
troops enabled to get sight of a single one, they having fled 
before our approach (as we afterwards learned), they having 
been told that they would be killed, until we reached Pine 
Creek, where the interpreter found a poor woman attempting 
to escape with her crippled child. She having been assured 
that the people would not be injured soon became the means 
of reassuring the Indians, after which there was but little 
difficulty in communicating with them. 

"To our surprise we saw but veiy few horses among them, 
and that, too, on the upper waters of Owens River, and these 
evidently were obtained from the Walker River Indians. They 
informed Captain Davidson that some four or five Indians, in 
years past, were in the habit of stealing horses for the purpose 
of eating them, but esteeming it wrong they some five years 
since punished some of the party with death and the rest had 
died from natural causes, since when none had been stolen by 
their people. They told us where we could find the bones of 
the animals they destroyed, and most certainly the appear- 


ance corroborated their statement, for there were no bones of 
more recent date than four or five years. 

"The Wakopee or Owens River Indians appear to be both 
morally and physically superior to any of their race in Cali- 
fornia, for in point of probity and honesty I certainly have 
never met their equal; and as to their physical condition, I 
saw none sick or infirm save the child already alluded to, 
although they will number 1200 or 1500 souls. 

*'Wliilst talking to their head men, who had assembled for 
that purpose, Captain Davidson informed them that so long 
as they were peaceful and honest the government would pro- 
tect them in the enjoyment of their rights. Their reply was 
that such had always been their conduct and should ever be ; 
that they had depended on their own unaided resources; that 
they had at all times treated the whites in a friendly manner, 
and intended to do so in the future. He further infonned 
them that should they become dishonest and resort to murder 
and robbeiy, they would be punished with the sword. The old 
captain or head man turned with a smile to the interpreter 
and said: 'Tell him that we fear it not; that what I said, I 
have said. I have lain my heart at his feet; let him look at 
it.' " 

An editorial note in the Star said : 

"Within 60 or 80 miles of Owens Lake there is an 
immigration of about 50 large wagons going to Aurora, 
Mono County, loaded with valuable goods and machinery, 
which can reach their destination by no other route than 
through Owens Valley, besides which there are on the road a 
great many thousand head of cattle, sheep and hogs for the 
above destination." 

This indicates that there was probably qnite 
an amount of Owens Valley travel, of which no 
record has been found, on the part of people hav- 
ing Aurora or other points to the north as their 

Notes exhibited in Los Angeles in 1859 claimed 
that a large deposit of coal existed in the south- 



eastern part of what is now Inyo county. Stephen 
Gr. Gregg, James Bell and a man named Eeynolds 
made a trip into the desert to find the supposed 
coal, and ascertained that the vein described was 
a different and useless material. This was the 
first of the many parties which crossed the Si- 
erras on prospecting trips in this region, though 
the Mormons had given attention to the moun- 
tains of the eastern deserts. 

In the winter of 1859 a company known as the 
Hill party came, probably from Mono Diggings, 
and established temporary headquarters near the 
present situation of Lone Pine. Prospecting was 
carried on in the foothills to the east and west, and 
what was called Potosi district grew — or rather 
started — from discoveries in the eastern range. 
There is no record of any district organizations. 
The party moved northward and prospected Ma- 
zourka Canyon, east of Independence, locating the 
Iowa and several other claims. 

Lewis A. Spitzer, who was Assessor of San 
Clara County for many years, later, was one of a 
party which left Visalia early in 1860, and spent 
some weeks prospecting in the foothills bordering 
Owens Valley. The party, which included also 
Sam Kelsey, Charles and Jerome Smith and 
Charles Lumro, found nothing important enough 
to keep it from going on to Mono Diggings, the. 
original objective. 

About the same time Dr. Darwin French and 
his men entered the southern part of the county, 
and in March, 1860, they discovered silver-lead 
ores at Old Coso. The same expedition named 


Darwin Canyon and Falls in honor of its leader. 
The men included Dennis Searles, D. M. Harwood, 
Robert Bailey, James Kitchens, — . Walweber, 
Henry Siddons, Montgomery Smith, Sam dinger, 
Zebe Lashley, and Charles Uhl, with Dr. French 
as captain. 

This discovery created a considerable amount 
of interest. The San Francisco Alta of July 24, 
1860, reported that ''assays of samples from the 
Coso mines gave, in silver at $1.34 per ounce, 
$1,226.69; gold, $26.45," these being from claims 
located by a party headed by M. H. Farley, fol- 
lowing close after French. These men located on 
a wholesale scale, taking up ninety claims. They 
called the immediate locality Silver Mountain. 
Farley, in giving his report so that it reached the 
Alta, said that gold had also been found going 
''fifty per cent" to the pan. He described the 
country as sterile and waterless except for boiling 
springs, and may be further quoted : 

"A few scattered Indians (the Coso tribe) live on herbs, 
roots and worms. They run swiftly away upon seeing the 
whites. About 20 miles to the southward of Silver Mountain 
the party visited an active volcano. On some of the cliffs in 
the neighborhood of the volcano were found sculptured and 
painted figures, the latter colored with some pigment — perhaps 
cinnabar. They were evidently the work of a former race, 
for the intelligence necessary to produce them does not exist 
among the squalid creatures now inhabiting that country." 

Farley estimated that there were 500 men on 
the ground. His guess was probably as inaccurate 
as his reference to a "volcano," by which he 
doubtless referred to Coso Hot Springs. The 
Visalia Delta of the same month reported : 


"Persons are leaving almost daily for the mines. There 
are now at the mines about 200 men, and about 100 prospect- 
ing south and east of Owens Lake." 

The Oroville, Butte County, Record of July 21 
reported, on the strength of statements by re- 
turned Orovillians, that there were eighty-two 
men at the mines or in the vicinity, and that the 
Coso Mining Company had been organized by 
Oroville people, with William Mclntyre as presi- 
dent; W. C. Walden, secretary; W. B. Finch, 
treasurer ; and with $78,000 capital stock, divided 
into 156 shares. 

Men of the French party organized what they 
called the Coso Gold and Silver Mining Company, 
with James Hitchens as president. A report by 
Hitchens, printed the following January, was en- 
thusiastic in its claim for the richness of the 

The most important ventures of that season, 
1860, were the Russ and George parties. An ad- 
dress by Henry G. Hanks, delivered in the San 
Francisco Academy of Sciences and reported in 
the Bulletin of February 1, 1864, stated that the 
New World Mining and Exploration Company 
left San Francisco March 4, 1860. Among its 
twenty or more men were Col. H. P. Russ, the 
leader; T. H. Goodman, afterward captain of one 
of the military companies at Camp Independence, 
and later a high official of the Southern Pacific; 
0. L. Matthews, who was to become Inyo County's 
first judge ; and John Searles. 

Dr. S. G. George headed a contingent which 
included S. G. Gregg, in after years Inyo's Sher- 


iff; W. T. Henderson, adventurer; Moses Thayer, 
and others. This detachment met and joined the 
San Franciscans at Walker's Pass, and the com- 
bined forces entered Owens Valley. A subdivision 
went eastward from Owens Lake. 

The north-traveling section established a camp 
on Owens River, a few miles southeast of the site 
of Independence. Dr. George observed, through 
a field glass, the bold outcroppings of the Union 
lode, and he and Russ went to examine it. Finding 
the prospect encouraging, camp was moved to the 
vicinity of the croppings, and the men proceeded 
to organize Russ mining district, the first sem- 
blance of any form of civil government in the ter- 
ritory now included in Inyo County. Russ was 
chairman of the meeting and George was its sec- 
retary. Hanks, in his address, gave the date as 
April 20, 1860. Among the claims located at this 
time were the Union, Eclipse and Ida, as well as 
a number which, unlike these, were not afterward 
worked to any extent. Thayer was made superin- 
tendent of operations, but was soon succeeded by 

Indians began to visit the camp in friendly 
fashion, and were well treated. The whites 
sought to learn the names of surrounding objects. 
Chief George (who became a leader in the Indian 
war) told them that the name of the mountain 
range to the eastward was "Inyo," meaning, as 
near as could be ascertained, ''the dwelling place 
of a great spirit." This is the origin of the 
county's name, and the occasion was the first time 
it had come to the whites' attention. 


The detachment which had gone eastward had 
not been idle. Ores had been found in the rugged 
Panamints and other ranges, and Telescope min- 
ing district had been organized, at a date of 
which no record is known to exist. W. B. Lilly 
was its recorder and E. McKinley was his deputy. 
Henderson was appointed superintendent of the 
Combination mines. 

The district took its name from Telescope 
Peak, the highest point of the Panamints and one 
of the most prominent landmarks of the entire 
desert region. Henderson had christened the 
height when he ascended it and noted the mag- 
nificent view from its lofty and isolated summit. 

Henderson himself was a character of some 
notoriety. He had been a member of Harry Love's 
posse of man-hunters who pursued and killed the 
outlaw Joaquin Murietta, of western California 
record. Many credited Henderson with having 
fired the shot that laid that redoubtable murderer 
low. Henderson himself denied this, and said that 
Murietta was slain by J. A. White, who was a 
member of this Telescope party, and who was 
killed by Indians near those mines soon after the 
war began. In later years, Henderson became less 
averse to accepting the distinction of having killed 
the bandit, and when he died, in Coarse Gold, 
Fresno County, in December, 1882, his reputed 
part in that affair was generally accepted as fact. 

Some of the Telescope people went back to 
San Francisco, taking several sacks of rich ore. 
An excitement of some consequence was skill- 
fully worked up by these men, for whom a field 


had been prepared by the rich mines of the Corn- 
stock lode. Bailey, one of the Telescope locators, 
was a leader in working the financiers, -and Jack 
Prouty was another who shared in the game of 
selling stock in companies formed to work claims 
or extensions. Many thousands of dollars were 
picked up by these enterprising parties before 
they left the city to "develop the properties." 
They kept going. Prouty got to Mazatlan, Mex- 
ico, where he was murdered — greatly to the satis- 
faction of Henderson, who wrote that it was a 
*' timely end of a miserable humbug." Bailey 
disappeared also, so far as his dupes were con- 
cerned, with $25,000 of their money. Stephen G. 
Gregg saw him afterward on a coast steamer, 
but was unable to find him when the boat reached 
San Francisco, or ever after. 

Little work was done on the Telescope mines 
at that time. The following year Henderson and 
others started a 150-foot tunnel to tap the Christ- 
mas Gift ledge. They kept at it for a few months, 
until the Indian outbreak drove them out. The 
antimony deposit near Wild Eose Spring, north- 
erly from Telescope Peak, was found during the 
first summer's trip to the region, if we accept 
the evidence of a chiseled ''July 4, 1860" in its 

Argus district was not far behind Buss in 
organization, though there is disagreement as to 
its date. Hanks gave it as May 21, 1860. James 
E. Parker, in an address at Lone Pine on the 
Centennial Fourth of July, said it was July 23, 
1860. These mines appear to have been found by 


an independent party, for neither the name of S. 
D. Hassey, chairman of the organization meeting, 
or of M. Valentine, its secretary, appears on the 
roster of either the New World or the George 

Later in 1860 the George party made another 
trip from Visalia and penetrated the Death Val- 
ley country. One of its discoveries, made De- 
cember 25, 1860, was the Christmas Gift mine, on 
which Henderson worked the following year. 
This expedition chose its season to avoid the heat 
that had been found on the desert the preceding 
summer, and succeeded so well that snow fell over 
the whole countryside before a start was made for 
home. Provisions began to give out, and the last 
baking of bread was used at what the report calls 
Granite Springs. A mule and a burro were turned 
loose to shift for themselves. The next day it was 
found that the mule had perished in the snow, and 
the burro was making a meal off of the blanket 
which had been put on the animal to help to pro- 
tect it from the cold. No wood was available; 
the scant sagebrush was too wet to use for fuel. 
The men were compelled to walk, jump and dance 
about their camp during the night to keep from 
freezing. The next day the party reached Coso 
Springs, and from there got safely home. 

Dr. Darwin French had heard of some place 
on the desert where the Indians shot golden bul- 
lets. While there were few guns among the 
savages for such uses, the story sounded good 
enough to justify French in organizing another 
expedition. Among its nine members were John 


and Dennis Searles, T. G-. Beasley and T. F. A. 
Connelly. The party wandered for eleven months 
over different sections of Inyo, but failed to find 
any place where the yellow metal was so common, 
or where there was enough of it to tempt them to 
stay. They went back to Visalia satisfied that 
the story belonged in the same class with that of 
Ponce de Leon 's fountain of eternal youth. 





squaw" — bishop's SAN FRANCIS RANCH — AN ELECTION 

Prospecting had been the only purpose of the 
transient population of Owens Valley prior to 
1861. Some livestock had been driven through 
the valley to reach the mining camps to the north- 
ward, and observant men had noted grazing pos- 
sibilities which were later used. An extract from 
a Los Angeles paper, printed on a preceding page, 
indicates that this route was thus utilized two 
years earlier. 

The father and mother of McGree brothers, J. 
N. Summers, Mrs. Summers, Alney, John and 
Barton McGee, brothers, and A. T. McGee, a 
cousin, gathered a herd of beef cattle in Tulare 
County in the spring of 1861 and started for Mono- 
ville. Mono County, via Walker's Pass. Barton 
McGee 's account relates that from Eoberts ' ranch 
on the south fork of Kern River to Adobe 
Meadows in Mono County, considerably more than 
100 miles, not a white person or white settlement 
was seen. They estimated that there were 1,000 
Indians then in Owens Valley, who were not 



friendly to the whites and considered that every 
one who came through their territory should pay 
tribute. Their demands on the McGee party were 
refused. No violence was offered, though efforts 
were made to stampede the cattle, until threats 
of death if there were further attempts in that 
direction put an end to such interference. The 
journey was finished without further molestation. 

The first stockman to come this way to remain 
was Henry Vansickle, of Carson (then called 
Eagle) Valley, Nevada. A. Van Fleet came with 
him. W. S. Bailey drove his herds into Long Val- 
ley, just north of the Inyo line, about the same 

Van Fleet was accompanied by men named 
Coverdale and Ethridge. The three went south 
as far as Lone Pine Creek, seeing no white men 
except a few scattered prospectors in the White 
Mountain foothills. Returning to the northern 
end of the valley. Van Fleet made camp at the 
river bend near the present site of Laws, and pre- 
pared for permanent residence. He put up a 
cabin of sod and stone, completing it in August, 
1861 — the first white man's habitation in Owens 
Valley. He cut some wild hay that summer, the 
first harvest of any kind. 

While Van Fleet was building, a rough stone 
cabin was begun by Putnam, at Independence, a 
stone's throw westerly from where the county 
jail now stands. The building was torn down in 
1876. During the war period it was as much 
fortress as residence, and was used as house of 
refuge, home station and hospital. The neighbor- 


hood took the name of Putnam's, and was so 
known for some years. Once during the war, 
when the whites abandoned the valley, they pre- 
pared a surprise for any marauding natives who 
might undertake to destroy the cabin. A trench 
was dug around it and a quantity of blasting 
powder was poured into the trench, with a train 
leading to the wooden roof. The expectation was 
that one of the first acts of wreckage would be 
to bum the roof, and while the red men stood 
around enjoying the spectacle more or less of 
them would be blown into the happy hunting 
ground. But the close watch kept by the Indians 
defeated the plan. They carefully dug out the 
powder, and set a squaw at work with a stone 
mortar to reduce the large grains to suitable 
size for rifle use. While this was being done, a 
spark was struck in the mortar. The conse- 
quences were laconically explained by an Indian 
some years afterward; he told of gathering up 
the powder and putting some of it into the mortar, 
with the rest piled up close by, then ''No mas (no 
more) ketchum squaw!" 

Soon after Putnam put up his house, Fred 
Uhlmeyer and J. F. Wilson came from Visalia 
and ''squatted" on land near Independence. 

Samuel A, Bishop and his retinue started from 
Fort Tejon July 3, 1861, for the Owens River 
country, which had been examined by his scouts. 
Mrs. Bishop, the first white woman to tarry in 
the valley, came with her husband; in the party 
were also Mrs. Bishop's brother, named Sam 
Young, E. P. ("Stock") Eobinson, Pat Gallagher 


and several Indian herders. They drove between 
500 and 600 head of cattle and 50 horses. On 
August 22 they reached Bishop Creek, and estab- 
lished a camp at what Bishop named the San 
Francis Eanch, at a point where the stream leaves 
the higher sandy bench lands and gravel foothill 
slopes and enters the lower level of the valley, 
about three miles south of west of the present 
town of Bishop. 

Pines growing near by were felled, and from 
them slabs were hewn for the construction of the 
first wooden structures, two small cabins. 

While Bishop's residence in this valley was 
brief, as his natoe was given to the stream and later 
to the town we note some details of his career. 
Samuel Addison Bishop was born in Albemarle 
County, Virginia, September 2, 1825. He started 
for California April 15, 1849, and after an ad- 
venturous journey reached Los Angeles October 
8th. We next hear of him as an officer in a war 
with the Mariposa Indians in 1851. By 1853, he 
was virtually in charge of the Indian reservation 
at Fort Tejon. That year he and General Beale, 
later prominent in Kern County affairs, formed 
a partnership in stockraising and land ownership. 
During the period he was* the sole judge of what 
courts there were in the region, and appears to 
have filled his trust with credit. In 1854 he and 
Alex Godey, one of Fremont's scouts, contracted 
to furnish provisions for the troops at Fort Tejon. 
The government decided to build a military road 
from Fort Smith, Arkansas, to Fort Tejon, and 
Bishop and Beale took a contract for its construe- 


tion. While Beale began at the Fort Smith end, 
Bishop started to build easterly from Tejon. The 
partners were allowed the use of camels which 
the government had imported for desert work. 
The undertaking was full of adventures with 
which this record has no special concern. 

Bishop's next venture was into this valley, 
after he and Beale had dissolved partnership. 
Following his stay in Inyo, he took a promi- 
nent part in affairs in Kern, and became one of 
that county's first Supervisors when its govern- 
ment was created in 1866. Two years later he 
and others secured a franchise for constructing 
a car line in San Jose, and that city was there- 
after his home up to his death, June 3, 1893. 

In the fall of 1861 J. S. Broder, Col. L. F. 
Cralley, Dan Wyman (hence Wyman Creek), 
Graves brothers and others came from Aurora 
to seek placer mines said to exist on the east side 
of the White Mountains. They spent the winter 
on Cottonwood Creek. Early the following year 
Indians from farther eastward ordered them to 
leave, when Chief Joe Bowers interfered, saying 
it was his territory. He later warned the whites, 
however, that they had better go, as he might not 
be able to protect them though he wished to do 
so. They took his advice, after giving him such 
provisions as they did not need and caching their 
mining goods. After the first hostilities of the 
war had ended, the party went back, accompanied 
by T. F. A. Connelly. Joe helped them to find 
the cached goods, which had been raided. One 
item in the stock was a flask of quicksilver. A 


hole had been broken in the iron flask, and the 
metal spilled. In explaining the occurrence, Joe 
demonstrated by making motions of picking up 
something, then showing his empty fingers, with 
the remark: ''Heap no ketchum." Joe was 
friendly to the whites throughout the Indian 
troubles; and as will later appear, one of the 
men he specially befriended had less of decency 
and justice in his makeup than did the aboriginal 

The brief tenancy of prospectors in ''White 
Mountain District" in the fall of 1861 served as 
a basis for an attempted election fraud which at- 
tracted much attention in California legislative 
affairs in 1862 and 1863. That section, now in 
Inyo County, was then under Mono's jurisdic- 
tion. The latter county was joined in a legisla- 
tive district with Tuolumne, for election of State 
Senator and Assemblyman. 

"Big Springs Precinct" was established by 
Mono Supervisors, August 26, 1861, with its poll- 
ing place at what is now known as Deep Springs. 
This was done by the Mono board on a re- 
quest bearing one or two signatures. The elec- 
tion was held September 4th, so the precinct was 
created less than two weeks in advance. 

The candidates for the State Senate from the 
district were Leander Quint, Union Democrat, 
and Joseph M. Cavis, Union; for the Assembly, 
B. K. Davis, Breckenridge Democrat, and Nelson 
M. Orr, Republican. Election returns as sub- 
mitted by the County Clerk gave the vote as fol- 
lows: For Senator: Cavis 372 in Mono, 1,664 in 
Tuolumne; total 2,036; Quint 741 in Mono, 1,467 


in Tuolumne, total 2,208. For Assemblyman ; Orr 
1,728 in Tuolumne, 344 in Mono, total 2,072 ; Davis 
1,563 in Tuolumne, 657 in Mono, total 2,220. On 
the face of the returns, therefore, Quint and Davis 
were elected. 

Orr, of Tuolumne, was convinced that there 
was something wrong with the figures, so he came 
over to Mono and made a personal investigation. 
The returns of that county showed that Big 
Springs precinct had cast a total of 521 votes. 
McConnell, for Governor, had received 406 of 
these. Quint had been given 510, and Davis 298. 
Not a single Republican vote was noted, and 
another singular disclosure was that while a full 
State ticket was being elected no votes were re- 
turned for any office except Governor, Senator and 
Assemblyman. Orr visited Big Springs precinct, 
and was able to find only a handful of men in the 

Orr and Cavis applied to the respective Houses 
of the Legislature to be seated in place of Davis 
and Quint. The Assembly Committee on Elec- 
tions held a lengthy hearing, calling many wit- 
nesses from Mono County. Orr, petitioner, 
alleged that no election was held in the so-called 
Big Springs precinct, and produced evidence that 
there was virtually no population in the precinct. 
Davis' witnesses (none of whom were from the 
precinct) testified that they had sold goods to be 
taken to Big Springs to an amount indicating a 
large population, and that they believed there 
were at least 500 voters there. They also testified 
that one of Orr's witnesses had been paid $250 for 


his testimony. E. M. Wilson, County Clerk of 
Mono, when called on to produce the ballots and 
poll list, said he had mailed them to Sacramento, 
but singularly they failed to reach that city. 

A witness testified that he saw the alleged poll 
list and election returns prepared in a cabin near 
Mono Lake ; that they were written on torn frac- 
tional sheets of blue foolscap paper. Others were 
unable to identify more than two or three names 
on the alleged poll list, when it had been presented 
to the Supervisors, as being those of persons 
known to be in Mono County. A citizen who 
looked over the list was struck with the familiar 
appearance of some of the names, and finally 
ascertained that the list had been copied from 
the passenger list of the steamer on which he had 
come from Panama to San Francisco. 

Notwithstanding the palpable fraud, a few in 
each House were found to support its bene- 
ficiaries. Orr was declared to have been elected, 
by vote of the Assembly February 13, 1862, forty- 
eight for Orr, four for Davis. The Senate, like 
the Assembly, had a Democratic majority in that 
session, but proved to be less ready to right the 
wrong; and it was not until March 28, 1863, well 
into the session of a year later, that Cavis was 
seated by a three-fourths Union Senate. 






As the winter of 1861-62 approached, some 
of the cattlemen who had driven into Owens Val- 
ley saw no reason for leaving its abundant graz- 
ing. As late as the first week in November Barton 
and Alney McGee got together a drove of 1,500 
head of cattle, and came this way. While they 
were at Lone Pine, on November 12th, snow fell 
to a depth of four inches. They went on to 
George's Creek, then concluded to winter in the 
valley. Barton McGee reported that there were 
then settlers on Little Pine Creek (Independence), 
Bishop Creek and in Round Valley. He went to 
Aurora for supplies, where he found eight feet 
of snow. Returning with provender, the party 
went to Lone Pine and put up a cabin. Fine 
weather favored them until Christmas Eve, when 
there came the real beginning of probably the 
hardest winter that white men ever saw in Inyo. 
McGee noted that there was not a day of the next 
fifty-four without a downpour of either rain or 
snow; ''not continuous," he wrote, "but at no 
time did it quit for a whole day, snowing to a 



depth of two feet or more and then raining it off. 
The whole country was soaked through and all 
the hills were deeply covered. All the . streams 
became almost impassable, while the river was 
from one-fourth to one mile in width, about half 
ice and half water, and sweeping on to the lake, 
paying no respect to the crooks and curves of the 
old channel in its course to the lake, which it 
raised twelve feet." These reports of severe 
weather in Inyo are corroborated by official 
records for other parts of California, for during 
that January the rainfall at Sacramento was over 
fifteen inches. A book published two years later 
refers to the floods of that winter as 'Hhe most 
overwhelming and disastrous that have visited 
this State since its occupation by Americans." 
The first flood submerged the Sacramento Valley 
about December 10th, the water rising higher than 
in either of the memorable floods of 1851 and 
1852. For six weeks thereafter an unusual amount 
of rain descended. On the 24th of January the 
second flood attained its greatest height, and the 
Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys were trans- 
formed into a broad inland sea stretching from 
the foothills of the Sierra to the Coast Range, and 
somewhat similar in extent and shape to Lake 
Michigan. In that same month of January, a rain 
of three days' duration fell on the accumulated 
snow around Aurora, many of the adobe and 
stone buildings of the camp fell, and loss of life 
was occasioned by a flood in Bodie creek. The 
McGee account indicates that Owens Valley 
shared fully in the great downpour. 


The few white men in the valley had nothing 
on which to subsist except beef, and much of the 
time they were without salt to make their 
monotonous fare more palatable. What must 
have been the plight of the Indians? Life was a 
hard struggle for them at the best ; and under the 
conditions of that severe winter the herds of the 
whites offered the only means of preventing 
starvation. Besides, the Piute held that the white 
men were intruders. That the natives began to 
gather food from the ranges was only what might 
have been expected ; it was what most white men 
would have done under such circumstances. The 
whites submitted to the loss of many animals be- 
fore beginning retaliation. 

The first act of revenge by the white men oc- 
curred when Al Thompson, a herder in Van- 
sickle's employ, saw an Indian driving away an 
animal and promptly shot him. This occurred 
not far southeast of Bishop. A man named Cros- 
sen, better known as Yank, was then captured and 
killed by the Indians. He had come from Aurora 
and had stayed for a few days with Van Fleet. 
He crossed the river to the west side and was 
taken not far from where Thompson had done his 
killing. All that was ever seen of him again was 
part of his scalp, found at Big Pine. 

It appears to be true, however, that scalping 
was not a usual practice of the Owens Valley In- 
dians. Instances of that kind were very few. 
During the Indian war, a collection of a dozen 
scalps of white men were found in a cave near 
Haiwai (now Haiwee). The supposition was that 


they were evidence of a massacre by some other 

The principal Indian settlement of tjie north- 
ern part of the valley was on Bishop Creek, within 
a short distance of Bishop's camp. Indians from 
all parts of the valley, and beyond, gathered there 
in the fall of 1861 and held a big fandango. 
Among those who were mixing war medicine were 
the usual sorcerers, who claimed that their magic 
would make the white men's guns so they could 
not be fired. The anxious stockmen kept their 
weakness concealed as well as they could, until re- 
inforcements happened to arrive. A storm had 
wet the guns in camp, and to insure their relia- 
bility when needed they were taken outside and 
fired. This, disclosing to the tribesmen that the 
sorcerers ' guarantees were not wholly dependable, 
helped to prevent the threatened assault, and the 
gathered Indians moved away. 

The situation caused great alarm among the 
scattered settlers, and they gladly agreed to a 
pow-pow with the Indian chieftains. This confer- 
ence was held at the San Francis ranch on the last 
day of January, 1862. Chief George defined the 
Indian view by marking two lines on the ground 
to show that the score was then even, referring 
to the Indian killed by Thompson, and the killing 
of Crossen. A treaty was drawn up and signed, 
as follows : 

"We the undersigned, citizens of Owens Valley, with In- 
dian chiefs representing the different tribes and rancherias of 
said valley, having met together at San Francis ranch, and 
after talking over all past grievances, have agreed to let what 


is past be buried in oblivion; and as evidence of all things 
that have transpired having been amicably settled between 
both Indians and whites, each one of the chiefs and whites 
present have voluntarily signed their names to this instnament 
of writing. 

"And it is further agreed that the Indians are not to be 
molested in their daily avocations by which they gain an 
honest living. 

"And it is further agreed upon the part of the Indians 
that they are not to molest the property of the whites, nor to 
drive off or kill cattle that are running in the valley, and for 
both parties to live in peace and strive to promote amicably 
the general interests of both whites and Indians. 

"Given under our hands at San Francis ranch this 31st day 
of January, 1862." 

Signed for the Indians by Chief George, Chief 
Dick and Little Chief Dick, each of whom made 
his mark; for the whites by Samuel A. Bishop, 
L. J. Cralley, A. Van Fleet, S. E. Graves, W. A. 
Greenly, T. Everlett, John Welch, J. S. Howell, 
Daniel Wyman, A. Thomson and E. P. Robinson. 

One of the chiefs missing from the conference 
was Joaquin Jim, leader of the tribe in southern 
Mono, which then included the valley as far south 
as Big Pine Creek. It was probably Joaquin 
Jim's braves who began renewed depredations. 
At any rate, the treaty proved to be merely a 
passing incident. Within two months war was on 
in earnest. 

During February Jesse Summers came from 
Aurora for beef for that market. He gathered 
a few in the southern end of the valley and went 
back to Aurora, leaving Bart and Alney McGee to 
drive the band. They got as far as Big Pine 
Creek, where Jim's camp happened to be at the 


time. Jim and a few of Ms men visited the Mc- 
Gee camp, and acted so unfriendly that the broth- 
ers concluded to move. Alney went to get the 
horses, and Jim demanded something to eat. Bart 
poured him a cup of coffee, which he threw, cup 
and all, into the fire. McGee jumped toward the 
guns, which the Indians had set to one side. Mc- 
Gee took the precaution to discharge the weapons, 
then told Jim to take them and go, which he did. 
The brothers moved on and spent the night safely 
though uncomfortably in a wet meadow, with 
their horses close at hand. Alney went on the 
next day with Summers, whom he met at Van 
Fleet's. Bart went to the San Francis ranch. 
The next day he rode back to Putnam's and re- 
ported that the northern settlers wanted help. On 
his way down the speed of his horse got him 
safely past a band of Indians at Fish Springs, un- 
touched by the many shots they fired at him. 

Fifteen men came with McGee from Putnam's 
to help to move the cattle from Bishop Creek. The 
night they reached the San Francis ranch the 
Piutes provided a striking exhibition of fireworks, 
running about and waving burning pitchpine 
torches secured to long poles. The Indians sur- 
rounded the cabin and sent in a delegation. 
Though they claimed to be friendly, they held a 
war dance around the building, and told the whites 
that the Piutes had charmed lives and could spit 
out the bullets that might enter their bodies. The 
night passed without violence. 

The next morning the drive of stock began, 
reaching what is now Keough's Hot Springs the 


first night. Though pickets were put out, Indians 
succeeded in driving off 200 or more head of cat- 
tle. The next morning three of the men went after 
the stock, and were met by a line of forty or fifty 
Indians who ordered them back — an order with 
which they could do nothing but comply. Indians 
hovered about the flanks of the drive down the 
valley, but did not molest it further. 

A few days later Barton and John McGee, 
Taylor McGee, Allen Van Fleet, James Harness, 
Tom Hubbard, Tom Passmore, Pete Wilson and 
Charley Tyler (''Nigger Charley") were near 
Putnam's when they saw four Indians going 
toward the cattle. Bart and Taylor McGee, Van 
Fleet, Harness and Tyler went out to where they 
were. The Indians when interrogated said they 
were going after their horses. They were told 
they could go on, but must leave their weapons 
until they came back. This they refused to do. 
The controversy continued for some time. One 
account is that Van Fleet made the first threaten- 
ing move by leveling his gun at an Indian; his 
own story, and that of other whites, was that the 
Indian first pointed an arrow at him. Whatever 
the facts of this, Van Fleet turned his body and 
got the first wound, an arrow in his side, where 
its obsidian head remained until his death fifty 
years later. Harness was also wounded before the 
whites shot. In the melee which ensued all the 
Indians, one of whom was Chief Shondow, were 
slain. Hubbard was shot through the arm with 
an arrow. 

It is fully possible that the whites were to 


blame in this affair. An account reaching Aurora 
held them responsible, and Barton McGee, in 
writing of it, said : ' ' This occurrence created a lit- 
tle trouble in our ranks, some thinking we were 
not justified in firing on them and others saying 
we did exactly right. Be that as it may, it was 
done. ' ' This does not well accord with the narra- 
tion of the fight as above printed on the state- 
ments of McGee and Van Fleet. 

A few more than forty white men were gath- 
ered at Putnam's, and they began to strengthen 
their fortification. Rocks, old wagons, boxes and 
other materials were used to pile up a barricade. 
Charles Anderson was elected captain, and a con- 
stant guard was maintained while the company 
remained there. Sheriff Scott, of Mono, was 
among the men, and in a letter said : ' ' The Indians 
appear warlike here, and we expect a battle be- 
fore many days — possibly tonight. There are 
forty-two of us, armed with rifles, shotguns and 
sixshooters. We have fortified ourselves the best 
we could with wagons, oxbows, yokes, rawhides, 
etc. I can escape easily, but to do so would be 
to weaken the force in the fort, and so enable the 
redskins to wipe out those who would be obliged 
to remain." 

A band of natives had gone to Van Fleet's 
cabin on the river, previous to this gathering at 
Putnam's, and had demanded admission. After 
some parley he gave them provisions. They set 
out toward Benton, then known as Hot Springs, 
where a prospector named E. S. Taylor lived 
alone. Taylor's cabin was attacked and riddled 


with bullets and he was killed, but not until ten 
of his assailants had paid with their lives. Van 
Fleet was the only authority for this statement, 
except that others wrote of passing and seeing the 
bullet-riddled building. A report taken to Aurora 
by Albert Jeffway, an express rider who had been 
in Owens Valley, told of the death of another 
Taylor, near Putnam's. Taylor, he said, was hot- 
headed, and got into a row during which he killed 
two or three Indians. The Piutes set fire to his 
cabin, and as he came from it they shot him. It 
is at least possible that this was a mistaken ver- 
sion of the Benton affair. 

Two men known as Vance and Shorty were 
still in the upper end of the valley, or may have 
gone there from Putnam's, to gather up what 
stock they could. Seeing Indians after their 
animals, they went to investigate, were fired on, 
and killed two natives. 

Whatever of division there may have been in 
the Putnam camp over the killing of Shondow, 
there was no dissent when it was proposed to 
strike a blow that would discourage raids on the 
cattle. Preparations for a campaign were made, 
and twenty-three men, led by Anderson, left Put- 
nam's after dusk masked their movements. Oral- 
ley was chosen lieutenant. Scott Broder, the Mc- 
Gees, Tyler, Harness and Shea were among those 
in the column, which went that night to the sod 
cabin of Ault and Sadler, not far from the 
Alabama hills. 

As soon as the east began to gray, three men 
were left with the horses at the cabin and the 


others set out in two equal squads. Anderson's 
detachment went to where the light of campfires 
could be seen over the Alabama hills; the others 
went up the stream. The sun was just rising as 
Anderson came up to where the Indians were 
breakfasting. Firing commenced at once, a num- 
ber of Indians being killed at the first volley. 
They ran to shelter in the rocks, *'and a good 
shelter it was," wrote Bart McGee, *' cavities 
where they were out of sight in less than thirty 
seconds. We could not follow them in, so we did 
the best we could from the outside, shooting into 
the mouths of their dens, while the Indians threw 
arrows among us in showers. It seemed the air 
was full of arrows all the time. They did not have 
any guns or they would have made it a hard fight 
for us. We fought there for about an hour be- 
fore the other boys, hearing our firing and coming 
across the rough hill, could reach us. We fought 
until about 1 o'clock, hitting some 30 or 40 of 
them, destroying about a ton of dried meat and 
some of their camp outfits. ' ' The white casualties 
included another arrow hole in Hubbard's arm, a 
wound in Harness' forehead made by an arrow 
which shattered against the skull without pene- 
trating, and an arrow wound in Scott Broder's 
shoulder. The last mentioned injury was so 
troublesome that the citizens withdrew to the fort, 
leaving the natives in their stronghold. While 
McGee mentions that 30 or 40 Indians were hit, 
and another account said that Negro Charley 
Tyler himself shot four Indians, a report sent 
to Los Angeles gave the total Indian strength in 
the fight as 40 and said that their dead numbered 






During this time the Owens Valley Indians had 
sent calls for aid to all their people. Nevada 
Piutes had suffered severely in a recent war of 
their own, and the majority were not inclined to 
hunt further trouble. They had realized the truth 
of predictions attributed to Numaga, one of their 
leaders. While it is a digression from the im- 
mediate subject, the speech credited to Numaga 
in trying to keep his braves from the warpath is 
worth preserving: 

"You would make war upon the whites. I ask you to 
pause and reflect. The white men are like the stars over your 
heads. You have wrongs, great wrongs, that rise up like these 
mountains before you; but can you from the mountain tops 
reach up and blot out those stars'? Your enemies are like 
the sands in the beds of your rivers: when taken away they 
only give place for more to come and settle here. Could you 
defeat the whites, from over the mountains in California 
would come to help them an army of white men that would 
cover your country like a blanket. What hope is there for 
the Piute? From where is to come your g-uns, your powder, 
your lead, your dried meats to live upon, and hay to feed 
your ponies while you carry on this war? Your enemies have 



all these things, more than they can use. They will come like 
the sand in a whirlwind, and drive you from your homes. You 
will be forced among the barren rocks of the north, where 
your ponies will die, where you will see the women and old 
men starve, and listen to the cries of your children 'for food. 
I love my people; let them live; and when their spirits shall 
be called to the great camp in the southern sky, let their bones 
rest where their fathers were buried." 

But in spite of advice, some came from the 
Nevada tribes to venture further in warfare. More 
came from the west, across the Sierras, from the 
Kern and Tulare bands that had been but re- 
cently defeated, and from southern California. 
Some, like Joaquin Jim who was already an 
Owens Valley leader, had been outlawed by their 
own people. Jim was a Fresno renegade, a man 
of unusual courage and determination, and he was 
never reconciled to white rule. The gathered In- 
dian host in Owens Valley was estimated at from 
1,500 to 2,000 fighting men. 

The Reds found allies in the mining camp of 
Aurora, in the persons of two merchants named 
Wingate and Cohn, who were said to have carried 
on a thriving traffic in supplying ammunition for 
what guns the western Nevada and Mono Indians 
had. The same Wingate refused to sell ammuni- 
tion to a messenger from the settlers, saying that 
ail the whites in Owens Valley should be killed. 

Al Thompson and a companion were sent to 
Aurora for help for the threatened settlers. A 
party of eighteen was organized there, com- 
manded by Capt. John J. Kellogg, a former army 
officer. One of its members was Alney L. McGee, 
who had gone to Aurora from the valley. 


After the Lone Pine battle the citizens at Put- 
nam's had elected Mayfield their captain. Ac- 
counts of the expedition next starting from there 
-do not agree, ranging from twenty-two to thirty- 
five; the best supported estimate seems to be 
thirty-three. This force moved northerly to at- 
tack the Indians. At Big Pine they found the 
bodies of R. Hanson and Tallman (or Townsend), 
who had been killed by the Indians a few days be- 
fore. Both corpses had been torn and mutilated 
by coyotes, and that of Hanson (a brother of A. C. 
Hanson, one of the expedition and in later years 
County Judge) was identified by the teeth. 

Kellogg came down east of the river, the same 
day. He believed the Mayfield command, which 
could be seen across the valley, to be hostiles. The 
mistake was straightened out and the two com- 
mands united. All night long the hostiles oc- 
cupied the rock-strewn hillsides near by, and kept 
up a continuous howling. The next day, as the 
force moved northward, an Indian scout was killed 
by Tex Berry. Dr. A. H. Mitchell, who proved 
to be an abject coward in the later fight, acted 
consistently with that character by scalping the 
Indian and tying the bloodj^ trophy to his saddle. 
He afterward lost horse, saddle and all. About 
noon of April 6th camp was made at a ditch or ra- 
vine about two miles southwest of the present 
town of Bishop. 

The Indians held a line extending from a small 
black butte in the valley across Bishop Creek and 
to the foothills south. Their numbers were 
variously estimated at from 500 to 1,500. Oppos- 


ing them was a white force of from fifty to sixty- 
three men. 

The Piutes were defiant in their demonstra- 
tions, and the white men waited only long enough 
to eat a meal before going into action. Kellogg 's 
force moved up along the creek; Mayfield took 
his men more southerly. A deep wash was en- 
countered, and the pack animals were left there 
with a man in charge. Mayfield, Morrison and 
Van Fleet were at the head of the line when the 
Indians opened fire. Van Fleet dismounted and 
handed his bridle to Mayfield. A bullet pene- 
trated Morrison's body, and Mayfield, not seeing 
his men coming up, became panic-stricken and 
would have fled leaving Van Fleet afoot if he had 
not been threatened with summary vengeance. 

Kellogg saw that the Indians were about to 
move around and either cut off the line of re- 
treat or separate the two parties of whites. In 
response to his call for a volunteer to warn May- 
field, Alney McGee made the ride, during which 
his horse was kiUed. 

The white men then retreated to the shelter of 
the ditch. Morrison was put in front of Bart 
McGee, on the latter 's horse, and with Alney Mc- 
Gee steadying him was taken to the trench. 
''Cage," or James Pleasant, a dairyman who 
had come from Visalia, was in front of them. 
They happened to be looking directly at him when 
a bullet hole appeared in the light gum coat he 
wore. He did not reply to a question asked, but 
rose in his stirrups and fell from his horse, dead. 
The situation was so pressing that for the time 
the bodv was left where it fell. 


Anderson collected some of the men at a small 
hill and kept the foe back until Morrison could be 
taken to a safer place. As the men went back, 
an Indian wearing only some feathers in his hair 
was seen going toward the pack train. It was 
suggested to Hanson that there was his chance to 
get revenge for his brother's death, and Hanson 
and Tyler rode out and killed the too venturesome 
red man. The latter 's costume was similar to 
what a great many of the warriors were wearing 
at the time. ''The uniforms they wore was 
nawthin' much before, an' rawther less than 'arf 
o' that be'ind." 

The whites reached the ditch intrenchment 
without further casualties, and from there main- 
tained a defensive battle. One veteran of the 
fight stated that "Stock" Eobinson killed an In- 
dian who was crawling through the ditch to get 
at close quarters with the defenders. One Indian 
had a point of vantage behind a pile of grass from 
which he fired several shots. He was killed by 
Van Fleet, who watched for his rising to shoot. 
Mitchell, who had distinguished himself by scalp- 
ing the Indian scout killed on the way up the 
valley, proposed that all make a run for safety. 
Anderson, knowing that if that were done the 
whole party would be exterminated, said he would 
shoot the first man who left them to run. Mitchell 
then bravely proclaimed his own intention of tak- 
ing a shot at any one who would exhibit such mis- 
erable cowardice. 

The whites had spread out some of their 
powder to have it handy for loading purposes. 


Some one struck a match which fell into it, and 
one man was severely burned in the explosion 
which followed. 

Darkness came on, and firing from th'e Indian 
lines almost ceased. N. F. Scott, Sheriff of Mono, 
who had come from Putnam's with the Mayfield 
party, raised his head above the ditch rim as he 
undertook to light his pipe. As he did an Indian 
bullet struck him in the temple, causing instant 
death. He had come into the valley on official 
business a short time before. 

The beleaguered whites waited until the moon 
went down, well along in the night, before making 
a move. Then they retreated to Big Pine, un- 
molested. Morrison was taken with them, but 
died soon after reaching Big Pine Creek. This 
brought the white dead up to three. The number 
of Indians who fell was unknown, but was vari- 
ously estimated at from five to fifteen or more. A 
report published soon afterward said that eleven 
Indians were killed. The fatalities in this affair, 
as in nearly every case during the fighting, re- 
sulted from bullet wounds. Indian arrows did 
little harm except at close quarters. Fortunately 
for their opponents the Indians had but few guns, 
and were too ignorant of their care and use to 
make them very effective. Had Piutes possessed 
any marked degree of courage they could have 
wiped out the little company of white men, though 
of course it would have been at a heavy cost to 

The men, who were in this fight, so far as 
ascertained from different records, included Har- 


rison Morrison, "Cage" Pleasant and N. F. Scott, 
who were killed; Captain Mayfield, Charles 
Anderson, Alney McGee, Barton McGree, A. Van 
Fleet, A. C. Hanson, Thos. G. Beasley, R. E. 
Phelps, E. P. Robinson, John Welch, Thomas 
Hubbard, Thomas Passmore, William L. Moore, 
A. Graves, James Harness, John Shea, — . Bo- 
land, Pete Wilson, L. F. Cralley, Tex Berry, 
James Palmer, A. H. Mitchell, ** Negro" Charley 
Tyler, a Tejon Indian, and others unrecorded. 

No two of the several accounts of this fight 
agree in all respects ; the versions having the most 
corroboration of fact or probability have been ac- 







Enters now into these chronicles the nation's 
soldiery, also one Warren Wasson, acting Indian 
Agent for the Territory of Nevada. 

Through news reaching Carson by way of 
Aurora, Wasson learned of the beginning of 
trouble in Owens Valley. Under date of March 
25, 1862, he telegraphed to James W. Nye, Gov- 
ernor of Nevada, who was then in San Francisco. 

"Indian diflfieulties on Owens River confirmed. Hostiles 
advancing this way. I desire to go and if possible prevent the 
war from reaching this territory. If a few men poorly armed 
go against those Indians defeat will follow and a long and 
bloody war will ensue. If the whites on Owens River had 
prompt and adequate assistance it could be checked there. I 
have just returned from Walker River. Piutes alarmed. I 
await reply." 

Governor Nye promptly conferred with Gen- 
eral Wright, commanding the Department of the 
Pacific, and on the same day notified Wasson to 
the following effect: 

"General Wright will order 50 men to go with you to the 
ecene of action. You may take 50 of my muskets at the fort, 
and some ammunition with you, and bring them back. Confer 
with Captain Rowe." 



It will be observed that the Governor was care- 
ful of the property under his charge. Presumably 
the guns were for the arming of settlers in the 

Captain E. A. Eowe, of Company A, Second 
California Cavalry, was ranking officer and com- 
mander at Fort Churchill, Nevada. AVasson im- 
mediately visited him, and the result was an order 
to Lieutenant Herman Noble to take fifty men to 
''Aurora and vicinity." ''You will be governed 
by circumstances, in a great measure," his in- 
structions read, "but upon all occasions it is de- 
sirable that you consult the Indian Agent, Mr. 
W. Wasson, who accompanies the expedition for 
the purpose of restraining the Indians from hos- 
tilities. Upon no consideration will you allow 
your men to engage the Indians without his 

Wasson came on ahead of the troops. He 
found the Walker Eiver Indians greatly excited, 
and apprehensive of general war with the whites. 
He sent messengers to the different bands of 
Piutes in that region, with instructions to keep 
quiet until his return. The mass of the natives 
were anxious to keep out of trouble, and he found 
all quiet when he w^ent back. 

A Piute named Robert accompanied him to 
Mono Lake, where the Indians were congregated 
and preparing for a war they feared. They were 
much pleased with his mission, and sent with 
him one of their number who could speak the 
Owens River Piute dialect. 

Wasson and his interpreters joined Noble's 


column at Adobe Meadows on the night of April 
4th. The next day he traveled eight or ten miles 
ahead of the soldiers, and about noon passed the 
boundary of the Owens Eiver Piute territory. 
On the night of the 6th camp was made at the 
northerly crossing of Owens Eiver. At that very 
hour the Mayfield and Kellogg companies were 
defending themselves in the trench near Bishop 
Creek. Wasson saw no Indians, but plenty of 
fresh signs. On the following morning the Mono 
Indian said that he knew the Indians were to the 
right and up the valley. He was sent to inter- 
view them, with a message that the purpose of 
the mission was to inquire into the cause of the 
difficulties and to arrange a fair settlement. 

Wasson and the Walker River Indian went on 
south. After going twelve miles down the river 
they saw a body of men at the foot of the Sierras 
and waited until Noble came up. Lieutenant 
Noble and Wasson then left the cavalry and went 
across the valley to learn who the men were. 
They found the citizens who had retreated from 
Bishop Creek, together with troopers of the 
Second California Cavalry under Lieutenant 
Colonel George S. Evans. Evans had left Los 
Angeles March 19th, and shortened the trip to 
Owens Valley by keeping to the east of the Sierras 
instead of going into the San Joaquin Valley and 
crossing Walker's Pass, as seems to have been the 
invariable route before then. This appears to have 
been the first travel on the route now used south 
of Walker's Pass. He arrived at Owens Lake 
April 2d. He found a dozen men and a few 


women and children at Putnam's ''fort." Leav- 
ing Captain Winne and seven soldiers there, 
Evans moved on up the valley with seventy-three 
men and met the Mayfield-Kellogg men near Big 

Wasson made his mission known, but found 
little encouragement for peaceful hopes. The 
larger force wished only to exterminate the hos- 
tiles. When Mayfield met the cavalry, Evans had 
induced forty-five of the citizens to turn back 
northward with his company, the rest being sent 
on to Putnam's. 

The meeting with the contingent from Nevada 
occurred about six miles south of Bishop Creek. 
Evans, being the ranking officer, directed Noble 
to bring up his company. When this was done the 
force moved to and camped at the scene of the 
previous day's fighting. The body of Pleasant, 
left in the flight of the citizens, was found, shock- 
ingly mutilated. All his clothing had been taken 
for Indian use. The body, wrapped in a blanket, 
was buried. It may be noted that when circum- 
stances favored the Piutes again dug up the re- 
mains and took therefrom the blanket shrouding 
them. Once more the whites made a grave for 
Pleasant, at a point a little east of the San Francis 
ranch. Search in later years failed to discover 
the place of its final interment. Pleasant Valley, 
a small subdivision of Owens Valley, was named 
for this victim of the war. The body of Scott, 
buried in the trench the night of the retreat, was 

Evans started scouting parties in different di- 


rections at daylight of the 8th. Eight or ten men 
who had gone northwesterly returned about noon 
and reported having found the enemy in force 
twelve miles to the northwest, in what is now 
called Round Valley, A rapid movement in that 
direction was ordered, and in two hours the 
soldiers and citizens reached the mouth of the 
canyon in which the Indians were believed to be. 
A heavy snowstorm had begun there, and a strong 
gale swept down from the summits. Evans 
ordered an advance, sending Lieutenants Noble 
and Oliver up one ridge with forty men while he 
and Lieutenant French, with an equal number, 
took the opposite wall of the canyon. Wasson 
criticizes the wisdom of this plan, as the gale, all 
in favor of the Lidians, would have given them a 
strong advantage. The pursued foes had gone 
on, however, and no Indians were found. The 
troops returned to the valley below. 

The storm abating somewhat, Wasson did 
some investigating for himself, and discovered 
Indian signs in a canyon a mile to the north of 
the camp. Following it, he came upon a fresh 
trail leading northerly. At a point over two miles 
from the command he turned back. As he started 
back, he heard a call from rocks a few hundred 
yards away. He replied, in English, Spanish and 
Piute, but got no response. This performance was 
repeated several times as he rode toward camp; 
he believed it to be an effort to decoy him. That 
night campfires were visible in the canyon. 

The next morning Evans ordered Lieutenant 
Noble and nine of his men to reconnoiter the can- 


yon, while the whole command moved in that di- 
rection. The detail was fired upon after it had 
advanced some 300 yards into the canyon. 
Trooper Christopher Grillespie was instantly 
killed and Corporal John Harries was wounded 
in the left arm. Gillespie's body was left behind 
in the retreat, but was afterward recovered. A 
published report mentioned the killing of a Ser- 
geant McKenzie, but this is not confirmed by the 
military report. 

The main command was half a mile below the 
mouth of the canyon. The cavalrymen were dis- 
mounted, and Noble and his company were sent 
to occupy the mountain side at the left, or south, 
side, Mayfield and four other citizens accompany- 
ing them. Evans was to take the north side of 
the canyon, and the citizens not with Noble were 
to remain at its mouth. Noble reached his 
designated position, and drew a brisk fire from 
two directions. Mayfield was wounded, and 
Noble, seeing that to hold his position would 
probably mean heavy loss, ordered a retreat. 
Mayfield was being carried back when a bullet 
passed between the legs of citizen John Welch 
and inflicted a fatal wound on the already injured 
citizen captain. John A. Hubinger, bugler, later 
a physician in Pasadena, was surrounded by In- 
dians, and a bullet grazed his ear, but he made 
good his escape. 

Evans found that the mountain side was too 
rugged and steep to permit the advance he had 
planned for his company, and he also ordered a 
retreat, not only from the immediate vicinity but 


back into Owens Valley. Before the soldiers had 
gone a mile and a half the camp ground they had 
occupied was dotted with Indian campfires. 

Wasson's report, dated April 20, 18*62, gives 
little credit to Evans for his management of the 
affair. He wrote : « 

"During the engagement I selected a high rock at about 
the center of the operations, where I could observe all parties, 
and I am satisfied there were not over 25 Indians who had 
been left behind as a decoy to the whites and to protect 
the main body and families, who had gone on into the moun- 
tains to the north to avoid a collision with the troops. . . . 
Lieutenant Noble confeiTed with me and we agreed as to the 
course to be pursued, until we met Col. Evans, who then took 
command. This reinforcement rained all our plans. We 
might have done better; we certainly could not have done 
worse. Lieutenant Noble and his men behaved gallantly on 
the field." 

In referring to the Bishop Creek fight of April 
6th, Wasson says the citizens had been "shame- 
fully defeated." That is, after starting a cam- 
paign against from ten to thirty times their 
number, the white command had been forced to 
retreat. If to abandon that undertaking were 
*' shameful," what shall be said of the result in 
Round Valley? Evans had under him a force of 
more than 150 men, of whom more than 100 were 
soldiers. After a skirmish, he abandoned the 
whole attempt, without discovering anything 
about how many or how few foes he had engaged. 
The sole result of his campaigning was to increase 
the confidence of the Indians, as Wasson had fore- 
told, and to add to the probability of other out- 


Evans camped that night on the Bishop Creek 
battleground. He had no provisions except what 
he procured in the valley — a singular condition 
which he attributed to his having distributed sup- 
plies to needy settlers — and was compelled to re- 
turn to Camp Drum. Lieutenant Noble accom- 
panied him as far as Putnam's, to escort the set- 
tlers from the valley with their herds and flocks. 
The latter included 4,000 head of cattle and 2,500 
sheep. Among the men who left at that time were 
the McGees, who met Indians, but were not 
molested. A general exodus took place. 

Wasson appears to have had not only much 
sympathy with the Indians in their pathetic resist- 
ance to the inevitable white domination, but a bias 
that led to occasional overstatement. He assured 
Governor Nye that they ''had dug ditches and ir- 
rigated nearly all the arable land in that section 
of the country, and live by its products." The 
products were the native plants, irrigated to a 
limited extent and not cultivated at all. We 
quote him further: 

"They have been repeatedly told by officers of the govern- 
ment that they should have exclusive possession of these lands, 
and they are now fighting to obtain that possession. . . . 
Having taken up their abode along Owens River as a place 
of last resort, they will fight to the last extremity in defense 
of their homes." 





By the first of May, 1862, the Indians were in 
almost undisputed possession of the whole of 
Owens Valley. Occasional venturesome travelers 
fared badly. Harvey C. Ladd had left San Ber- 
nardino two months earlier with his family, 
wagons and stock, and lost all his possessions, the 
persons being fortunate enough to escape. Alex- 
ander Godey, ex-scout and at that time Indian 
Agent, noted a report that a man named Pete Abel 
and thirteen or fourteen others had been mas- 
sacred, one man alone escaping to tell the tale. 
The party had four wagons loaded with pro- 
visions, and 45 horses. They were besieged in a 
corral which they formed with their wagons, and 
in an attempt to escape all but one lost their 
lives. Another party of six were all killed. In- 
formation given in Los Angeles was that the In- 
dians had acquired a hundred rifles among them; 
that there were from 1,000 to 1,200 fighting men 
in the valley ; that a thousand head of cattle had 
been stolen or killed by them, and that practically 



every white habitation on the eastern side of the 
Sierras north of Walker's Pass had been de- 

Miners in the Coso region were still at work, 
nevertheless, but under such dangerous conditions 
that the miners appealed to the military author- 
ities at the San Francisco Presidio for protection. 
Hitchens, of Hitchens & Montgomery, of Coso, 
made his way out on this mission. His accounts 
of the condition were far more extreme than what 
appears in these pages. He stated also that there 
was a quantity of mill machinery at Walker's Pass 
to be taken to Coso when it became safe. 

General Andres Pico, in Los Angeles, sought 
permission to organize an independent expedition 
against the Indians. Volunteers for his proposed 
forces were numerous enough, but it appears that 
the Governor refused him the desired permission. 

A letter purporting to come "from citizens 
residing in the vicinity of Owens River" reached 
the authorities, asking that no steps be taken for 
the establishment of a military post; that if the 
soldiers would come and clear out the valley, giv- 
ing the whites possession, the latter would take 
care of themselves. The communication was be- 
lieved to have originated with designing plun- 
derers. A Los Angeles paper said that to send out 
the expedition for only 60 days would cost $100,- 
000, and called for a public meeting to urge the 
establishment of a military post in Owens Valley. 

Whatever the motive for the alleged protest, it 
was unheeded, and General Wright directed 
Colonel Evans to prepare for the ''Mono and 
Owens River Military Expedition." 


During May Captain Rowe, from Fort 
Churchill, Nevada, had a conference with the 
Mono Lake Indians, after an interpreter had in- 
duced them to hold a parley. The red men were 
found to be sullen and not caring whether peace 
was made or was not. They said as many whites 
as Indians had been killed and while they were 
satisfied, they were perfectly willing to continue 
the war. 

Evans started from Fort Latham, between Los 
Angeles and Santa Monica, June 12th, with 157 
men, including Company Gr and detachments from 
Companies D and I of his regiment, the Second 
California Cavalry. Captain Winne, who had 
commanded Gr Company on the first trip into 
Owens Valley, had committed suicide in a Los 
Angeles hotel, while mentally deranged, and T. 
H. Goodman had replaced him in command. The 
cavalrymen made camp on Oak Creek on July 4, 
1862; erected a 50-foot flagstaff, raised the flag 
and fired small-arm salutes, gave three times 
three cheers, and otherwise departed from the 
daily routine. Because of the day, the site se- 
lected by Colonel Evans was named Camp Inde- 
pendence. The soldiers immediately began to 
provide shelters for themselves, some building 
cabins and some digging out caves in the walls 
of a large ravine near by. 

John C. Willett, for many years a resident 
near Independence, was a saddler with Company 
Gr. In a letter written in 1903 he stated that when 
the soldiers reached the foot of Owens Lake they 
were instructed to kill all the Indians they saw. 
One Indian was slain at the lake. 


Captain George was met at the Alabama Mils, 
bearing a flag of truce and a letter from Indian 
Agent Wasson directing a cessation of hostilities, 
as he believed that a peace could be arranged. 

During July, Wasson was called from Carson 
to confer with Governor Stanford, General Wright 
and J. P. H. Wentworth, Indian Agent for the 
Southern District of California, regarding the 
Owens Valley situation. He was directed to col- 
lect the Indians at Camp Independence, to which 
point Wentworth was to come with presents and 
to make a treaty. In the meantime Captain 
Rowe's command had come into the valley from 
the north and made camp east of the river, op- 
posite Camp Independence. A powwow was held 
there July 5th, and a temporary peace was made 
with the Indian leaders. No friction was reported 
during the summer, though a letter written at the 
time said: ''The Indians feign friendship, but 
show what they would do but for the troops." 

Wentworth left San Francisco in September, 
going by steamer to San Pedro. From there he 
went to Fort Tejon and secured the aid of Alex 
Godey as interpreter and guide. They brought a 
quantity of presents and provisions for the na- 
tives. Runners were sent to the different ranch- 
erias and bands, and in response many Piutes 
gathered for a council. The Indians asked only 
that the government give them protection and 
means of support. They were assured of the folly 
of war, and were told that while good conduct 
would be rewarded, rebellion would insure punish- 
ment. On October 6th a treaty was made, and 


was celebrated by the Indians with a fandango. 
Chief George remained at the fort as a hostage 
for the good conduct of his people. While these 
events were transpiring, other factors • were at 
work leading to renewed trouble ; but on the sur- 
face at the time, Owens Valley had passed to 
the control of the whites within a few months of 
the time when they had been driven from it. 

Miners had been at work at Coso more or less 
continuously during all the troubles in the valley. 
Twenty arrastras were at work, and rich ore was 
being taken out. A report in a Los Angeles paper 
in July, in 1862, told of the arrival of a Dr. Bag- 
ley with twenty-six pounds of gold from the 

During the summer ''Lake City" was laid out 
near Owens Lake, by T. F. A. Connelly and W. 
B. Lilly. A few small shanties were erected, and 
proved to be the full extent of the ''city." Other 
occurrences of the summer included the beginning 
of work at the Eclipse mine, under R. S. Whig- 
ham as superintendent, and the bringing in, via 
Walker's Pass, of machinery for a quartz mill at 
Coso. T. F. A. Connelly did this freighting. 

A prospecting soldier found free gold ore in 
the range east of Independence. It was sent to 
San Francisco, and immediately caused the organ- 
ization of the San Carlos Mining and Exploration 
Company. On September 24th Henry G. Hanks, 
James Hutchings of Yosemite Valley note, and 
Captain Corcoran left the city as representatives 
of the company, to investigate the ledge from 
which the specimens had come. They outfitted 



in Stockton, and crossed the Sierras at Bloody 
Canyon, near Mono Lake. In passing through 
Yosemite they gave to Cathedral Spires the name 
now borne by that bit of scenic grandenr. Their 
route was via Monoville and Aurora, and at the 
latter place they were joined by George K. Phil- 
lips. Coming southward, they passed Bodie, 
where some prospecting was going on. At Hot 
Springs they saw the riddled cabin in which Tay- 
lor had been killed by the Indians some months be- 
fore. On October 24th, a month from the day of 
starting, they made camp three miles northeast 
of Camp Independence. 

A rich galena vein was found the following 
day, within a mile of the camp, and the Romelia 
claim was located on it. Hanks, assayer for the 
party, tested the ore under difficulties. When the 
work was nearly done, he related, a dog upset the 
balances and spilled the small buttons of metal. A 
long search failed to bring the missing buttons to 
light, and the prospect was that the laborious 
process would have to be repeated, when some 
one suggested that the missing material might 
have fallen into the dog's fur. The canine was 
given a combing, the buttons were found, and 
ascertained to show a richness of ore that highly 
encouraged the men. 

News of the find created strong interest in 
San Francisco. Companies and stocks were 
plentiful, and parties of prospectors headed for 
the new bonanza. San Carlos camp became a busy 
little place the following year. 

While these happenings forecasted the ulti- 


mate occupation of Owens Valley by white people, 
officialdom had, just before, remembered the 
earlier intention of establishing an Indian reser- 
vation. Senator Latham introduced his bill to 
sell the reservation lands in the southern part of 
the State and move their populations to Owens 
Valley. Agent Wentworth made strong objec- 
tions; that his objections served the purpose is 
sufficient without quibbling at these reasons he 
set forth in a report dated August 30, 1862 : 

"The scheme is utterly impracticable. In my department 
there are 16,000 Indians, and Owens River Valley, cultivated 
in the most skillful manner, with all the modem improve- 
ments, by intelligent white labor, would not support that popu- 
lation. How then would it be possible for the numerous 
tribes, strangers to each other and comparatively ig-norant of 
the first principles of agricultural pursuits, to sustain them- 
selves on such a reservation? The narrow valley of Owens 
River is only, at this time, suiRcient for the very small num- 
ber of Indians, 1500 by census, who at present occupy and 
inhabit it, and the cause of the war now waged there is 
the desperation of the Indians because of the fact that the 
emigration to the mines has destroyed the grass seed upon 
which they, in a large measure, had been accustomed to sub- 
sist. . . . The war there has already cost the Govern- 
ment more than $90,000. If the Committee on Indian Affairs 
had responded promptly to the estimate which I made last 
winter for funds, viz., $59,300, I sincerely believe the whole 
difficulty would have been avoided." 

Wentworth had, however, laid off a reserva- 
tion for the Piutes, embracing six townships, ex- 
tending from foothill to foothill and from Big 
Pine Creek on the north to George's Creek on 
the south. He reported that while it seemed large 
for the number of Indians, about 2,000 (disagree- 


ing with the alleged census of 1,500), "it must be 
remembered that it is only in small spots that it 
is susceptible of cultivation, the balance being 
scarcely fit for grazing purposes, and none of it 
attractive to settlers." This reservation was 
recognized and respected by the whites during the 
brief peace of that summer. 
The agent further reported; 

"Should the Department agree with me, as I trust it will 
for I see no other way of keeping these Indians quiet, I hope 
it will recommend to Congi'ess the immediate appropriation of 
$30,000 for the purpose of enabling me to establish this reser- 
vation. That sum, judiciously expended in the purchase of 
seed, stock cattle, mules, wagons, ploughs, etc., would place 
these wretched people beyond the necessity of stealing for a 
livelihood, and would relieve the Goveniment from any 
further expense for their support, as well as dispense with 
the necessity of maintaining an expensive military post in a 
country where everything has to be hauled a distance of 300 
miles over a sandy road, with water only at long intervals, 
and every obstacle to surmomit which is objectionable for a 
military depot. Already the Government has expended many 
thousands of dollars in sending and keeping troops there to 
suppress difficulties that would never have occurred had Con- 
gress appropriated, a year ago, for this reservation. 

"The discoveiy of gold and silver mines in the ranges of 
the movmtains on the borders of the Great Basin make what 
was three years ago an unknown region at this time a great 
thoroughfare; and the importance of averting at this time 
such a calamity as an Indian war is more pressing, as it would 
prevent travel and deprive the country of valuable resources 
made known by the energy of our hardy pioneers. 

"It would be impossible to remove the Indians of the more 
southerly portion of my district to this proposed reservation, 
because the rigor of the climate is such that it would be diffi- 
cult to keep them during the inclement portion of the year, 
when snow covers the ground, even if the expense of moving 


them were not an insurmountable objection to such a propo- 
sition. The importance of prompt action by Congress in this 
matter cannot be presented more strongly than in the fact that 
it can, by a small appropriation, if made at once, secure per- 
manent peace with a people who have shown themselves for- 
midable in war, and save the Government the enormous 
expense attendant upon an interminable Indian difficulty 
which will inevitably occur. 

"Aside from this view of the matter, every principle of 
justice and humanity demands that a portion of what really 
belongs to them by inheritance should be secured to them, and 
that a nation as noble as ours should lend a helping hand to 
these people to raise them from their degradation." 

Wentworth's recommendations went to Wm. 
P. Dole, Commissioner of Indian Affairs. Dole 
passed them on to J. P. Usher, Secretary of the 
Interior, but with a letter of disapproval. He fa- 
vored finding some other location, large enough 
to accommodate all the Indians of the District of 
Southern California. 

Nothing came of either Latham's bill or of 
Wentworth's recommendations. Congressman 
Aaron A. Sargent successfully opposed the latter, 
claiming that the amount asked was too much, 
and unnecessary, as there were not 500 Indians 
in the whole Owens River country. Wentworth 
came back in a later report with evidence that 
Sargent did not know what he was talking about, 
and that the original claim of Indian population 
was correct, but no further action was taken. 

The year closed peacefully in Owens Valley, 
though the desert regions to the southeast re- 
mained dangerous for white men. 






After the ostensible pacification of the Piutes, 
a part of the military force at Camp Independence 
had returned to Camp Babbitt, near Visalia, leav- 
ing Captain Goodman and Company Q at the 
former post. Goodman resigned January 31, 
1863, and the command devolved upon James 
Ropes, promoted to the captaincy. 

While Wentworth and AVasson believed they 
had made progress in their philanthropic efforts 
to better conditions for the Owens Valley Piutes, 
and while Captain George and his followers ap- 
parently desired the peace for which they had 
bargained in October, renegades from other re- 
gions were preparing for the warpath, with Owens 
Valley as the scene of their contemplated opera- 
tions. The Indians under Joaquin Jim, north of 
Big Pine Creek, had taken no part in the Inde- 
pendence council, and George did not speak for 
them ; neither did he represent the outlaw element 
from Kern River, Tehachapi and the eastern 
desert region. All that faction held a great pow- 



WOW in September (while Wentworth was at 
Camp Independence), on an island in the south 
fork of Kern River, and agreed to a campaign 
in Owens Valley the following winter and spring. 
One of those warriors told Weldon, a rancher in 
that vicinity, that the intention was to keep the 
Mormons out of Owens Valley. 

John Lee and Jose Grijalva, packing goods to 
Coso, were murdered at Canebrake, in Walker's 
Pass, in September. Two teamsters met a like 
fate not far from Weldon 's. During the next two 
or three months lone white men were killed in 
that region whenever safe opportunity offered 
itself to the Indians. Prospectors Hall, Shepherd, 
Turner and White, working near the Christmas 
Gift mine, were among the victims. Five wood- 
choppers in the hills northeast of Lone Pine went 
the same way. Five men named McGuire, Mor- 
rison, Taylor, Cowles and Hall were besieged in 
a camp near Coso, and escaped by abandoning 
their horses and camp. 

On the forenoon of March 3, 1863, a meeting 
was being held at San Carlos for organizing a 
district. While it was in session, men named 
Walker, Bellows, Crohn and Badger came in with 
a young man named Ayres, just escaped from an 
adventure in which a companion had lost his life 
at Big Pine. The meeting hastily adjourned, 
after deciding that until the valley reached a 
more peaceful state all development work might 
be suspended without prejudice to the validity of 
locations already made. 

Three Ayres brothers, Hiram, aged thirty-five, 


Albert, twenty-five, and William, twenty-one, and 
Hiram McDonald were camped at Big Pine Creek, 
March 2, 1862. Hiram Ayres had gone to the hills 
to cut some stakes. Eeturning toward camp, he 
saw an Indian loading horses with camp property, 
while none of the white men were in sight. He 
hid until towards morning, when the moon went 
down, then started for Camp Independence, where 
he arrived toward the following midnight. 

William Ayres was the one who was brought 
in by Walker and associates. He said that he was 
in camp at dusk when he heard McDonald say: 
''Look out, Bill! They're going to shoot!" Then 
a gun was fired, and William saw an Indian war- 
rior running toward him with arrow fixed. He 
ran, and was shot as he did so. He got into thick 
brush and under a bank washed out by high water. 
Though the Indians hunted and even poked his 
body with sticks they did not find him. When all 
was quiet he stole out and escaped, carrying an 
arrow in his body. He was taken to Camp Inde- 
pendence, where after long treatment by the post 
surgeon, Horn, he recovered. 

Hanks, William Wallace, Oscar Bacon and — . 
McNamara set out to seek Albert Ayres, whom 
they found struggling toward camp. He had been 
with McDonald until the latter had been struck 
by four arrows and had given up hope of escape. 
Ayres pulled out the arrows and urged McDonald 
to try to get away, but he insisted on Ayres leav- 
ing him and going to warn the miners to the south- 
ward. When McDonald was last seen the Piutes 
were pelting him with stones. 


Word came from Captain Ropes that CMef 
George had disappeared from the fort after re- 
ceiving his rations on March 1st, and trouble was 
expected. Several hundred Indians were seen, 
March 2, passing along the valley across the river 
from the mining camp. Their women and children 
were with them, which, the miners afterward con- 
cluded, was the only reason an attack was not 
made then. Ten men, well armed, were in the 
camp, and believed they could have put up a good 

Hanks and partners had returned to their 
claims and were working when they were told 
that their cabin had been broken into and ran- 
sacked. On going to it, they found everything 
except the laboratory table in a state of wreck- 
age. Superstitious fears probably accounted for 
the table and apparatus being undisturbed. All 
clothing, guns, ammunition, knives, looking- 
glasses and portable stuff for which the maraud- 
ers had a fancy had been taken. Mattresses had 
been cut, emptied, and their cloth taken. The door 
had been broken open with the camp ax. Hanks 
wrote, following this: 

"I am beginning to change my mind about Indians. I used 
to think they were a much-abused race and that the whites 
were generally to blame in troubles like this, but now I know 
to the contrary. Those very Indians who had been entertained 
at our house were the ones to attack it, and would have mur- 
dered us had we been at home." 

Again he wrote: 

"I want you to use all your influence to have the Indian 
reservation done away with, and to prevent a treaty until the 


Indians are punished severely. The citizens of this valley are 
exasperated to that extent that they will not respect any 
treaty until the Indians are completely conquered and pun- 
ished. The Indians are a cruel, cowai'dly, treacherous race. 
The whites have treated them well, paid them faithfully for 
all services performed by them, and have used the reservation 
only after gaining the consent of Captain George, their chief. 
After living on the charity of whites all winter, having 
gambled away the blankets and beads given them by the Gov- 
ernment, they now, without giving us the slightest warning, 
pounce down like vultures, rob those who have treated them 
best, and murdered where they could without danger to them- 
selves. They rush upon their prey in great numbers, like a 
pack of wolves, and not satisfied with filling the bodies of 
their victims with glass-pointed arrows, beat them into a 
pumice with stones. Can we be expected to give such inhuman 
wretches a chance at us again'? We call upon you, the people 
of Califoniia, State and Federal authorities, to have this 
reservation and this set of wild savages removed to some 
other point. This valley is the natural thoroughfare through 
the mountains, and destined by nature to be the seat of a 
large population." 

A lone cabin owned by a miner named Ladd, 
a mile from the San Carlos camp, was broken 
open and robbed March 6th. On that same day, 
not far from the Ida Camp, east of the present 
Manzanar, Curtis Bellows fell a victim to lurk- 
ing* Indians. The natives, seeking metal with 
which to make bullets for their guns, had de- 
stroyed the lead pipe which supplied water for 
the camp, making it necessary for Bellows and 
his partner, named Lambert, to visit a spring 
half a mile distant. Bellows was returning from 
such a journey when an arrow from ambush en- 
tered his body. He pulled it out and broke it. 
Another and more fatal shot struck him, and he 


sank dead upon the trail. His partner, seeing 
Bellows fall, ran to their cabin, followed by In- 
dians. By shouting orders, he made the Indians 
think several men were in the place, and they re- 
treated. A detail of fifteen soldiers recovered and 
buried the body of Bellows. 

Another letter from San Carlos said: 

"We hear that 40 men of Co. E, Second Cavalry, under 
Lieut. Davis, are on the way from Visalia. The force of 
soldiers here is Co. G, under Capt. Ropes. There is every 
probability that the Indians will want another treaty very 
soon, when they find nothing can be gained by fighting. They 
have been treated well, many of them fed by the United 
States, and their persons and those of their women protected 
by stringent militai-y orders. I have yet to hear of the first 
act of injustice toward them since the treaty." 

Captain Ropes sent Lieutenant James C. 
Doughty and six men to the Black Rocks, where 
the Indians were known to be in force. No state- 
ment of the purpose of this weak expedition is 
found in any military or other record. Near Black 
Rock Spring they were attacked by a force of 
Indians estimated at 200, armed with guns as 
well as with bows and arrows. Private Jabez 
T. Love joy was shot through the body and died 
that evening. Privates George W. Hazen, John 
W. Armstrong and George Sourwine were all 
wounded, and Lieutenant Doughty was shot in 
the hand with an arrow. Sourwine 's horse was 
killed; he took Lovejoy's, and carried the mortally 
wounded man in front of him to Camp Inde- 

An account written at the time gives the name 
of Henry Bosworth as one of the wounded men, 


but no such name appears on the company roll. 

Three days later Ropes took twenty-seven 
soldiers, accompanied by Charles Anderson, Dr. 
Burnham and other citizens, to the Black Rocks. 
As they neared the tumbled lava masses, a few 
Indians were seen, throwing sand in the air and 
yelling like fiends. They opened fire on the 
whites, but without doing any damage. Hanks 
wrote: "Ropes retreated slowly to draw the In- 
dians from the rocks, but they were too wary to 
be trapped, and stayed in the natural stronghold 
of the Black Rocks. After a few vain shots the 
soldiers went back to camp." Local stories al- 
leged that Ropes made a disgraceful retreat. 
John C. Willett, writing of it, said the soldiers 
were short of ammunition. 

One of the most noted events of the war was 
the escape of the McGee party from the Indians, 
on March 7, 1863. This story has been printed in 
different journals, generally with errors and em- 
bellishments designed to add to its readability. 
The following is the account given to the author 
by Alney L. McGee, for many years a citizen of 
Inyo and with a record of uprightness in keeping 
with his personal bravery : 

A party composed of Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Sum- 
mers, Alney L. McGee, his mother, a little girl 
(his niece) and Negro Charley Tyler camped at 
the soon-to-be site of Owensville on the night of 
March 6th, during a journey from Aurora to 
Visalia. Near Big Pine they came upon the body 
of McDonald, whose murder has been narrated. 
The corpse had been stripped of every shred of 


clothing. This discovery spurred them to a hasty 
flight do^vn the valley. Signal smokes were seen 
as they neared the hills below Fish Springs. As 
the party moved east of that low range, a band 
of Indians estimated at 150 was seen blocking the 
way ahead. The party left the poorly marked 
road to cross the river. The wagons stuck in the 
soft mud in the bottom of the stream, then at a 
low stage, and the horses were cut loose. By the 
time the whites had crossed the Piutes were at 
the western bank, sending arrows and bullets 
among them. This was near a mound ever since 
known as Charley's Butte, a short distance from 
the present intake of the Los Angeles aqueduct. 
On reaching the east bank Summers and Mc- 
Gee put the women and little girl on the horses' 
backs, and ran alongside, holding to the manes, 
and thus drew beyond the Indians' reach. The 
yelling Indians pursued, but their inferior ponies 
were unable to overtake the fugitives, who reached 
Camp Independence that night. Negro Charley 
was less fortunate. He tried to catch one of the 
band of loose horses which were being driven with 
the party, but did not succeed. When last seen 
he was running and fighting, and without doubt 
some of the assailants paid with their lives. He 
had taken part in the valley's Indian fighting, 
and had accounted for several of the enemy. His 
fate was never definitely known. Captain George 
claimed that he was taken alive and was tortured 
to death on Big Pine Creek. A pioneer told of 
the finding of a skull and vertebrae of a man, later 
that year, on a stream west of Charley's Butte. 


The skull had been so crushed that its race could 
not be determined. It appeared that the victim 
must have been dead before his body was triced 
up with withes over a fire. Mr. McGree did not 
believe that Charley was taken alive. 

When the escapes reached the fort they were 
halted by John C. Willett, doing sentry duty. 
"When Mrs. McGee was lifted from her horse she 
was unable to stand. At their request Willett 
hunted up citizen acquaintances in the camp, and 
the matter was reported to Captain Ropes. The 
latter 's reception of them was not to his credit; 
however, they remained at the post until May, 
when they went back to Aurora. 

The party lost twenty-two horses and their 
wagon mth its load of personal property, in- 
cluding $640 in money. Unlike many other cases 
of Indian depredations, this loss was never made 
good by the Government. 

A San Carlos report said that Captain Ropes 
was to send men northward to prevent similar 
attacks on other travelers. 






Assayer Hanks, reporting to the president of 
the San Carlos company in San Francisco on 
March 8th, wrote that Capt. (Chas.) Anderson 
and himself had taken six carbines and a lot of 
cartridges to the Union mill, probably eight miles 
south of San Carlos. ''I look on the magnificent 
landscape," he writes, ''and thought that such 
a valley was well worth fighting for." At Rode- 
bank's (an error for Coburn's, according to some 
old residents) on George's Creek, everybody was 
armed and expecting an attack. Putnam's stone 
cabin on Little Pine Creek sheltered a number of 
men, prepared to defy any Indian force. Lone 
Pine had two camps wherein citizens had gath- 
ered for defense. Four men were fortified at 
Clayton's house (locality not stated). Every- 
where all hands were burning off brush, moving 
hay, cleaning guns, cutting portholes in cabin 
walls, and otherwise preparing for battle. Two 
nights earlier Indians had fired the haystack near 
the Union mill, and the camp was burned at the 



same time. Hanks remained to help defend the 
Union mill; he notes that he considered the pres- 
servation of the mill to be of great importance. 

Troopers Johnson and Potter had left Camp 
Independence early in March for Aurora, for a 
purpose not explained but probably to warn in- 
tending travelers. When they reached Black 
Rocks, March 12th, on their return trip, they 
found 300 Indians along the road, with 50 guns. 
Chief George gave them a pressing invitation to 
come to his camp, but they preferred not to be 
the central figures in an Indian holiday. Riding 
close to him, they put spurs to their horses and 
dashed through the line, escaping with nothing 
more serious than a wound in Johnson's hand and 
a bullet crease across the neck of his horse. 

Hanks' manuscript, March 10th: 

"Today 14 soldiers under Lieut. Doty (Doughty) crossed 
at the ferry and went up to the ford to put up a 
notice of warning to any party who may be on the way down, 
to come down and cross at San Carlos. Last night Indians 
were all around the mill, as we could see their tracks this 

March 11. — "Today Mr. Summers, one of the men who 
escaped from the Indians, came down to the mill. He tells 
a thrilling story. He says the Indians did not go up the river 
yesterday. They found the ferry boat had been cut loose. 
Party left the Union mill this morning and went up as far as 
San Carlos. Found the rope cut and boat gone, and window 
and door smashed at the house. No other damage was done." 

Hanks' notes of March 12th relate the John- 
son-Potter incident, with the remark that a large 
party of soldiers had gone to see if they could find 
the Indians. 


No record of events of the latter half of March 
is available, though it was in the middle of the 
busiest season of trouble. On the 4th of April 
the military force at Camp Independence was aug- 
mented by the arrival of Company E, Second Cali- 
fornia Cavalry, under Captain Herman Noble — 
the same w^ho as Lieutenant of Company A had 
accompanied Wasson in his wasted peace mission 
the year before. 

Company E had the unique record of being the 
only successful mutineers in the United States 
army. While the incident is aside from the pur- 
pose of this history, it is worth preservation as 
well as being a temporary change from the narra- 
tion of the guerrilla warfare then prevailing. It 
was told by Chauncey L. Canfield, a private in the 
company : Company E was made up of Tuolumne 
County volunteers, and was allowed to choose its 
own officers. The choice for captain fell upon 
D. B. Akey, a Mexican War veteran, hard-working 
miner and good citizen. Like other California 
volunteers, the members expected to be sent to 
the battlefields of the Civil War; and like others, 
the company was held in the West. This started 
the discontent ; a march to Fort Humboldt during 
a hard winter increased it; and the climax was 
reached in Akey's proving to be a veritable tyrant. 
The company fought Indians in northern Califor- 
nia until midsummer of 1862. It was then agreed 
among the men that on a specified date no man 
should obey any order given by Akey, though ex- 
pressing" a willingness to act under any other offi- 
cer. Though under the Articles of War each was 


liable to death for mutiny, it was felt that the 
circumstances justified desperate measures. Akey 
got wind of the situation, and went to San Fran- 
cisco. During his absence the company was moved 
to Red Bluff, but any hope that some other officer 
would be sent in his place was shattered by his 
arrival there. At Akey's direction the orderly 
sergeant had the company drawn up in line. He 
then said: ''All those who intend to refuse to 
obey my commands as their superior officer step 
two paces to the front." That command, at least, 
they obeyed, for every man, except two who had 
joined subsequent to the compact, took the two 
steps forward. The captain glanced up and down 
the line, said nothing, and turned and walked to 
the ferry, passing from his company forever. The 
company remained there four months, while the 
War Department was considering its case. The 
decision w^as to muster it out of service, without 
pay, and it was marched to Benicia Barracks for 
that purpose ; but through the intervention of Gov- 
ernor Stanford the sentence was revoked. Noble 
was appointed its captain November 21, 1862, and 
in December the march for Owens Valley began. 
Akey was transferred to Noble's former company, 
A, and resigned eleven days later. He went to 
Nevada, and in after years visited Inyo. 

The two companies at Camp Independence left 
there April 9, Ropes in command. A soldier of 
the expedition, writing to the author from Massa- 
chusetts, stated that the white force included 120 
soldiers and 35 citizens. The following day a band 
of 200 Indians was found strongly posted on a 


spur of the Sierras north of Big Pine creek. Fir- 
ing lasted all afternoon, and toward evening the 
Indians withdrew into the mountains. A number 
(not definitely stated) of Indians were killed or 
wounded; white casualties, Private Thomas 
Spratt, of G Company, dangerously shot in the 
head, and Private John Burden, of E Company, 
slightly wounded. Spratt was sent back to the 
fort for attention, with J. S. Broder as one of the 
attendants. A large band of Indians pursued 
them among the Black Rocks, but they made a 
successful escape. 

Sergeant Huntington, of Company Gr, and half 
a dozen men had a running fight with Chief 
George and a large body of Indians in the Black 
Eocks, and reached the fort safely, after killing 
several of their pursuers. 

The chief Indian headquarters of the mid- 
southern part of the valley was at Chief George's 
rancheria on the creek which still bears his name, 
and west of the present Manzanar townsite. On 
the night of April 18 the natives had a feast there, 
having slain a work ox belonging to the whites. 
The next morning J. L. Bodle saw them leaving in 
a southerly direction, and with his companions 
counted thirty-seven of them strung out in single 
file. Word was sent to Camp Independence, and 
thirty or forty soldiers and citizens took their 
trail. It was followed west of the Alabama hills 
to a point two miles or so north of Cottonwood 
Creek, where a bullet through a man's hat gave 
notice of the nearness of the foe. A running fight 
ensued, the Indians being driven from one point 


to another until they made a last stand on the 
west shore of Owens Lake, not far from the mouth 
of the creek. Their guns were so foul that they 
could ram bullets into the barrels only by pound- 
ing the ramrods with stones. Lieut. Doughty was 
dismounted by accidentally shooting his own horse 
through the head. It is also said that the only 
casualty to the white forces resulted from a mis- 
directed shot from one of their own pistols. When 
this wounded man fell, an Indian known as Chief 
Butcherknife dashed up to finish him, but was 
slain. Completely beaten, the Piutes sought refuge 
in the lake. A strong wind was blowing from the 
east and interfered with their making much prog- 
ress in swimming, and one after another was killed 
in the light of a full moon just rising over the 
eastern mountains. The whites established a long 
line along the lake shore, and remained until the 
bodies began to wash ashore. A pioneer partici- 
pant alleged that the next morning a pair of 
water-soaked moccasins was found near the lake, 
presumably indicating that an Indian had sur- 
vived the rain of lead and had emerged when op- 
portunity offered. One Indian fled westward dur- 
ing the fight; he headed up the mountain, with 
derisive signs, and thereafter lived with the Kern 
Indians. Taking the count made at George's 
Creek, thirty-five or thirty-six Indians were killed 
in that affair. Milo Page, a pioneer, asserted that 
he passed the spot soon afterward and saw thirty- 
three skulls, from which coyotes had stripped the 
flesh, piled up in one place. Bancroft's Handbook, 
1864, said sixteen Indians were killed in the fight ; 
all evidence is that this was much understated. 


The George's Creek white residents joined the 
soldiers on their way down, leaving only J. L. 
Bodle and one other man as guards for the prop- 
erty at that settlement. A. L. McGee, John Kis- 
pert, W. A. Greenly, Meyer and others well known 
in later Inyo affairs were among the citizen com- 

From the body of one of the dead Indians was 
taken the Colt's powder and ball pistol which 
Negro Charley had carried, and this w^eapon was 
still in the possession of Mr. McGee at the time of 
his death a few years ago. Contrary to oft- 
repeated report, Mr. McGee stated that it was the 
only bit of property of the Summers-McGee party 
recovered from the marauding Indians. 





Company L, Second California Cavalry, Cap- 
tain Albert Brown commanding, arrived at 
Bishop Creek in April, 1863, and remained for a 
few weeks before going on to Camp Independence. 
It returned to Fort Churchill, Nevada, in June. 

Company D of the same regiment became 
more prominent in Owens Valley affairs. With 
Captain Moses A. McLaughlin in command, it left 
Camp Babbitt April 12, and reached Keysville, 
Kern County, six days later. The official report 

"Heard that a large party of Indians were camped a few 
miles above, and at 2 o'clock in the morning of the next day 
surromided their camp and killed 35 of them. Not a soldier 

Pioneers of both Inyo and Kern Counties 
speak of this affair as a cold-blooded massacre. 
The Kern Indians were at peace with the whites. 
Hearing that troops were approaching, they were 
much alarmed, but were advised by white acquain- 
tances to give up their arms and stay close to the 



settlements. They delivered eighteen gnns to the 
white settlers, and camped near Kernville (then 
called Whisky Flat) eight miles from Keysville. 
The soldiers surrounded the camp and told two 
Kern petty chiefs to pick out the chiefs of their 
bands. The thirty-five remaining Indians were 
herded to one side and ruthlessly shot down. This 
was the account given by J. W. Sumner, a resident 
there at the time. He said further that no evidence 
existed to implicate the victims in the Owens Val- 
ley troubles a hundred miles away. The superin- 
tendent of Tule River Reservation, the nearest, 
mentions in a report that year that the Indians 
under his charge had frequently given informa- 
tion in regard to the movements of their more 
hostile neighbors of Owens Valley, and when so- 
licited to join against the whites had absolutely 
refused. There were renegades among them, 
however, who had engineered the Kern River war 
council the preceding fall. 

McLaughlin's command reached Camp Inde- 
pendence April 24, and McLaughlin, as senior 
captain, became ranking officer at the post. The 
following day his company started on an unsuc- 
cessful two-day scout after Indians. On the ar- 
rival of this reinforcement the Summers-McGee 
party asked for a military escort through the val- 
ley on their way to Aurora, but the request was 
refused. In May enough citizens to form a strong 
party left for Aurora, and the refugees went with 
them. On the way out Alney McGee and H. Hurley 
encountered and killed three Indians on Owens 


During May the cavalrymen were active. Lieut. 
George D. French, of McLaughlin's company, and 
twenty men made a scouting trip, during wliich 
French and seven of his men attacked an Indian 
band, killing one and mortally wounding three. 
About the 10th or 12tli twenty-five or thirty Indian 
prisoners were taken at Big Pine and sent to the 
fort, by a detachment of Company E. Four men 
of Company L, under Sergeant Henry C. Church, 
came on a party of fourteen Indians on the head- 
waters of Owens River and killed four, the rest 
retreating into the rocks. This company was out 
almost continuously and by its destruction of 
many caches of Indian stores inflicted more seri- 
ous punishment on the natives than the killing of 
a few of their braves would have been. During 
May it destroyed about 300 bushels of "seed" 
(pine nuts and taboose) found cached in the 
vicinity of Bishop Creek. Captain McLaughlin 
himself was in the field with a detachment, seek- 
ing Joaquin Jim, leader of the southern Mono In- 
dians. Jim's camp was found and destroyed, its 
residents escaping. 

Sergeant McLaughlin (not the cay^tain) suc- 
ceeded in getting a conference with Captain 
George, and induced him to visit the fort in peace, 
arriving there May 22. Subchief Dick also came. 
The Indians were fed and treated well, and said 
they had no further wish to fight the white man. 
Other Indians began coming in, ''clad in native 
costume, a head of hair, ' ' remarks an unidentified 
correspondent of a San Francisco paper of that 
year. Captain George is described as second to 


Joaquin Jim alone in influence over his people. He 
was about tliirty-six years old, of medium height, 
wily and shrewd, and manly in bearing. . His face, 
normally round and full, was wan and pinched 
from privation when he was brought to the post. 
Getting enough to eat was an ever-present prob- 
lem with the Owens Valley Piutes, and was aggra- 
vated for some of them by the rigid enforcement 
of strict subtribal boundaries on hunting grounds. 
The most effective campaigning of the troops was 
in destruction of the scanty native stores of food. 
At this time, through con-stant flight and loss of 
supplies, the Indians were in dire want. 

The soldiers themselves were ready for a rest. 
Company D 's report for May says : 

"The company during' the month has performed several 
severe marches in the mountains, suffering much for want of 
water and rations. These marches have been performed on 
foot, it being impossible to use horses; but their labors, com- 
bined with that of other troops in the valley, have been 
crowned with success, resulting as they have in the subjuga- 
tion of the Indians, and terminating thus speedily a war 
which promised to be of much longer duration." 

While such congratulatory reflections seemed 
justified at the moment, they proved to be pre- 

Four hundred Indians surrendered at Camp 
Independence June 4. Runners to outlying bands 
met with fair success, but their work was largely 
nullified by that of a few white men. Captain 
Ropes, in a letter published in the Esmeralda 
Star, of Aurora, July 30, bitterly criticized citi- 
zens who had lacked the courage to bear their 
share of fighting and danger. 


"As soon as a cessation of hostilities was proclaimed by 
the commanding officer these stay-at-home fellows gTew won- 
drous brave, and boldly declared their animosity to the whole 
red race. Two Indian messengers that were sent from the 
post to the White Mountain district to gather these Indians 
were fired upon by some chivalrous miners, though the mes- 
sengers were unarmed and bore a white flag. Of course they 
never i-etumed, and today prospectors are in danger of their 
lives. Then, again, a Tehachapi Indian who had been for 
three months in irons was released and sent home to induce 
his tribe to cease hostilities and come in. With what would 
have been considered astonishing good faith in even a white 
man, he seems to have worked faithfully to accomplish his 
mission, and was returning with a number of his people, men, 
women and children, when they were fired upon in a most 
cowardly way while they were sitting in their camp only 15 
miles from the post. Two men and one little girl were 
killed, and all were scalped by these brave and chivalrous 
gentlemen, who rode off and exhibited their bloody trophies 
of the war. At the Big Lake the recollection of their glorious 
deeds so stirred their noble souls that they became slightly 
oblivious, and in that state one of the noble trio, Fl-ank 
Wliitson, was arrested by Lieutenant French, who had been 
sent for him. The gentleman is now in our guard house in 
irons, and awaits an order for trial. Of the Indians who 
escaped from this attack, most of them made their way to the 
mountains, where they now are and where they will remain 
for all that anyone can do to drive them out. Never again 
can any of them be induced to place any faith in the promises 
of white men, and if another outbreak occurs it will be far 
the most desperate we have ever seen. 

"I should have mentioned that the last party of Indians 
mentioned also bore a white flag, traveled openly in the road 
in daylight, and that their purpose was known to everyone. 
But for such ruffians as those who fired upon them, unarmed 
as they were, there would not today be a hostile Indian in the 
entire country; and those who may hereafter suffer will have 
Mr. Wliitson and others of like ilk to thank for it." 

Milo Page, writing many years later, gave a 


version of this affair quite different in details, but 
not changing the appearance of murderous treach- 
ery. His statement was that an Indian -known as 
Thieving Charley was given a white flag by Cap- 
tain McLaughlin, with a note stating to whoever 
read it that Charley was on his way to bring the 
Panamint Indians to Camp Independence to sur- 
render. This note fell into the hands of W. T. 
Henderson, in the Panamint region. Charley 
rounded up eleven Indians, and on his return to 
Owens Valley he was followed by Henderson, 
Lyman Martin, John Shipe, Frank Whitson and 

Ringgold. At Charley Johnson's, at Lone 

Pine, Ringgold got drunk and was not in the sub- 
sequent affair — a procedure which Henderson 
claimed resulted from cowardice and intention. 
The Indians camped near the Alabama hills. 
Henderson and fellow murderers attacked them 
early the next morning and killed nine of the 
twelve. The two survivors went on to Camp In- 
dependence and reported to Captain McLaughlin. 
A detachment of soldiers was sent to bring in the 
culprits. At Olancha the commander asked loudly 
if anyone there had been killing Indians. An- 
swered in the negative, he told his men they could 
go in and get a drink. Henderson, Martin and 
Shipe were visible as they crawled into their 
brush from their blankets. Whitson ran to catch 
his mule, and a corporal went, under instructions, 
to ask if he had been killing Indians. If Whitson 
had said no (says Page's story) there would have 
been a report that no guilty men could be found ; 
instead, Whitson said, "Yes; what are you going 


to do about it?" He was arrested and taken to 
Camp Independence, where he was kept under 
guard. Finally word was sent by Page that they 
were tired of guarding him, and if he would try 
to escape the boys would shoot at him, but not to 
hit. Still Whitson refused to escape, and was 
taken to Fort Tejon, where he was kept for a few 
months and finally released. 

With such happenings as this and the Kern 
River massacre in mind, it was not surprising that 
many of the Indians remained utterly unrecon- 
ciled, and that as opportunity offered they re- 
sorted to every primitive method of revenge and 
reprisal. They could not be more vicious than 
some whites had proved to be. However, at that 
time they were completely beaten in the valley of 
which they had been so recently the complete mas- 
ters. Chiefs George and Dick knew that resuming 
the Vv^arpath meant hunger, if not starvation, for 
their families and people. At the post they were 
safe and were being fed. 

Indian Agent Wentworth was requested by 
General Wright to receive the Owens Valley In- 
dians at San Sebastian Reservation, near Fort 
Tejon. In a report dated September 1, 1863, he 
again referred to the $30,000 appropriation for 
which he had asked with which to care for the Inyo 
natives. Had Congress granted it, he said, 

"No Indian Avar would have been waged, and the country 
would have been saved more than $250,000 in its treasury, 
the lives of many of its valuable citizens, and many of the 
poor misguided Indians, to whom the Government haa 
promised protection, would today, instead of being dead, be 


living and tilling the soil of their native valley, and through 
their own willing hands obtaining an honest and well-earned 
livelihood Owing to recent and extensive mines dis- 
covered in the Owens River Valley, and the consequent rush 
of mmers and settlers there, I deem that locality for an In- 
dian reserve entirely impracticable, and the present war fully 
demonstrates that the Indian and white race can never live 
peacefully in close proximity to each other. I have therefore 
to recommend the abandonment of that valley, for an Indian 
reservation. The mines, which are of unsurpassed riches, will 
cause thousands to permanently settle there during the com- 
ing year, and as heretofox'e throughout all California, the 
rights of the Indian will be disregarded, and constant turmoil 
and war will be a natural result." 

Pursuant to instructions, Captain McLaughlin 
left Camp Independence July 11, 1863, with 906 
Indian men, women and children. The escort com- 
prised seventy men of companies D, E and G, and 
twenty-two men of the Fourth California Infan- 
try, of whose presence at the post there is no other 

At Hot Springs Valley, near Keyesville, or- 
ders were received to abandon Camp Indepen- 
dence, and McLaughlin and Company D returned 
to make the necessary preparations. McLaughlin 
sold the Government's property at the post to 
Warren Matthews. Having no instructions or 
authority for this proceeding, he was court mar- 
tialed and dismissed from the service the follow- 
ing year. President Johnson removed part of his 
disabilities three years later. 

The band of Piute captives went on to Tejon, 
arriving there July 22. While it was certain that 
a large number of Indians had escaped along the 
way, to return to their native valley, Wentworth 


reported the delivery of 850 at the reservation, 
and said that twice as many were yet in Owens 
Valley. When the settlers learned that stragglers 
were returning from the reservation journey, they 
made a virtue of necessity and sent an invitation 
to the exiles to return and live in peace. 

Even while McLaughlin was convoying his cap- 
tives to Tejon, the valley north of Big Pine Creek 
was as dangerous as ever to isolated men. While 
Joaquin Jim's chief stronghold was in Long Val- 
ley, he constituted himself the overlord of north- 
ern Owens Valley as well. Two of his warriors 
were killed in the White Mountains by prospect- 
ors, who after this amicable preliminary left a 
white flag as a bid for peace. Jim himself gave 
the answer, as the next visit of the whites to that 
locality disclosed, by carrying away the flag, and 
putting in its place his own war banner, a scarlet 
cloth bordered with raven feathers — said to have 
been a handsome piece of work. 

About the first of August nine prospect- 
ors ventured into Little Round Valley, at the 
threshold of Jim's stronghold. Part of them war- 
ily prospected while the others remained as a 
camp guard. No Indians were seen until the fol- 
lowing evening, when the camp was attacked in 
force. Two Lidians were killed. The whites were 
unhurt, but made their way to Fish Slough that 
night, and to Owens River the next morning. 

W. L. Moore and Mark Cornish, coming from 
Aurora, battled with Lidians, killing two near 
Adobe Meadows. 

In the early part of July there came to the 


valley a company known as the Cliurch party. Its 
members, named Parker, Long, Ericson, Chase, 
Evans, Miller and one more, were from San Fran- 
cisco. They believed that Indian friendship would 
result from an attitude of generosity and good 
will. This party made its camp near where Laws 
now is. Nothing is narrated of the doings of these 
men prior to the arrival, late in August, of Ezra 
D. Merriam, a young man who brought letters of 
introduction from mutual friends in San Fran- 
cisco. During the weeks reports and warnings of 
Indian dangers had come to their camp, but noth- 
ing of those facts was told to Merriam ; it would 
appear that he did not take strongly to the olive- 
branch idea. 

On the invitation of Silas Parker, Edmund 
Long and Edward Ericson, Merriam started with 
them to locate timber on the mountains northwest 
of the valley. This trip resulted in the deaths of 
the first three, and gave Merriam an experience 
that ranks among the notable incidents of the pe- 
riod. We narrate it in his own words, as found 
in the Hanks collection of manuscripts : 

"We left camp in the Keyes district, lOwens River Valley, 
September 2d, to locate some timber on the headwaters of 
Owens River. We camped at night twenty miles from the 
starting point, being unable to reach water. Resumed our 
journey at daylight on the third. Saw signs of Indians five 
miles further on. Five miles more brought us to the timber, 
where the Indians had been gathering pine nuts. We were 
unable to get a road and concluded to cross the river. We 
found an Indian trail to the river, half a mile from the top 
of the bank down the trail, and 600 feet perpendicular. 
Breakfasted at the river at noon— the first water we had foi 


twenty-three hours. We saddled our horses and started up 
the other bank, after one and one-half hours rest, with Parker 
in lead, -Long second, Erieson third and myself last. 

"When we were twenty-five yards from the top, which was 
covered with large rocks, eight rifle shots were fired, Parker 
fell, pierced by two balls through the breast, exclaiming- 'My 
God, I'm shot!' 

"Long" and Erieson left their horses and jumped behind 
rocks, rifles in hand. Not seeing an enemy I took refuge 
behind a rock ten feet from Erieson, who had laid down his 
rifle and was exposing himself, calling to Parker. I saw the 
crumbling of a rock from the top of the hill, and dodged my 
head down as a ball whizzed past, a few inches above. 

"The Indians were in front and on both flanks. About the 
same time a shot was fired from the right. I asked Erieson 
if he was hit. He said he was. He was clasping his thigh, 
and raised his hand, from which blood was streaming, I 
saw nothing of Long after he went behind his rock, 

"I then attemi^ted to get to another rock, but missed ray 
footing and slid down the bank for twenty feet. Indians on 
the left started down the trail. I reached the bank at a dif- 
ferent point from the trail, could not cross, and hid in the 
chaparral. Heard two more rifle shots, but saw no Indians 
for two hours; then I saw seven Indians on the opposite bank, 
motioning to others on my side of the river and pointing to 
where I was concealed. I worked through the chapaiTal, and 
saw ten Indians coming there, so I arose and ran down the 
canyon. Tliey whooped and gave chase. 

"I outran them for a time, then found that they were gain- 
ing on me. I jumped into the river, but found that I could 
not cross it on account of the rapid current. Half a mile 
below I came to a fall fifteen feet high. Tried to reach the 
bank but could not, and was carried over. The euiTent had 
carried me faster than the Indians could pursue. I struck 
bottom and caught between two rocks, and had almost lost 
breath when a final struggle extricated me. Came to the 
surface, caught my breath, then dove and came up under 
chaparral on the bank, hiding me from view. A small rock 
projected twelve inches from the bank and three inches above 
the water. I sank my body and raised my nose under the 


"In a few minutes I heard Indians on the bank and just 
above my head, and saw two on the opposite bank with rifles, 
scanning the bank under which I was. Some of the Indians 
on my side moved part of the chaparral that covered me. My 
hat had washed ashore, and an Indian took it. I remained 
there three hours before the Indians left. Half an hour later 
all was silent; and I floated down stream until I struck a 
large rock on which I climbed. Jumped for shore, caught a 
bush, and finally got out. I hid in a canebrake until dark, 
completely chilled and scarcely able to move. Could see no 
signs of Indians. Finally I managed to get up motion, 
reached the top of the hill and ran through the timber. I 
went to the camp we had left on the 2d, traveling all night 
and until 10 :00 the next morning without water, until I 
reached the valley. On my way down I saw several Indian 

Word was sent to San Carlos, Bend City and 
the Union mill, and from each came men to take a 
hand in punishing the Indians. George K. Phil- 
lips was elected captain of the company of thirty 
well armed men. A letter of the time comments 
that it was a strangely assorted band, though a 
determined one. There were Texas rangers and 
frontiersmen, and there were those but recently 
from clerkships or to whom for other reasons out- 
door life was a novelty and who were scarcely 
browned by exposure. The party rode up Bishop 
Creek to the foothills, and along the latter to 
" Greenly 's Valley," (Round Valley). Camp was 
made, and to insure intent alertness pickets were 
changed hourly. One of the pickets created an 
alarm by tiring, harmlessly, at one of his fellows. 
The next morning Merriam guided the party to 
the scene of the ambush. Long's body was found, 
pierced by nine bullets. Ericson had been shot 



through the head. Both bodies had been dragged 
along the trail, that of Ericson by a willow withe 
around his neck. The body of Parker was not 
found, nor was it accounted for, except by the sup- 
position that he had been captured alive. The fol- 
lowing paragraphs are from a letter written by 
one of the men of the expedition : 

"On finding the bodies of Ericson and Long, we dug 
graves, covered the bodies with pine branches, piled in rocks 
and earth. One man said : 'Come, boys, let's go ; we can do no 
more for the poor fellows;' then in a lower and tremulous 
voice he added : 'God give his soul a better show than this.' I 
have listened to long prayers in grand cathedrals, where the 
sunlight poured in through stained glass windows and fell on 
pews of carved oak, but I never heard so fervent, so touch- 
ing a prayer as this, far away in this mountain land, among 
the pines, under the shadow of the giant Sierras, where the 
river, deep in the wild and rocky canyon below, murmured 
the requiem of the dead; where the blue sky, widespread, ex- 
tends from mountain range to mountain range, over mile upon 
mile of valley land and wooded hills. We left them, sadly 
and silently, and went up to our comrades on the hill, 

"We examined where the men fell, and saw where the 
rocks were drenched with their blood. We saw where Mr. 
Merriam ran down the hill, and wondered how it was possible 
for a man to accomplish so much. We came to the conclusion 
that this was not a war party, although we think Joaquin Jim 
was among them Joaquin Jim has never been con- 
quered. He has said frequently that he would not let the 
whites occupy his domain, 

"After we had buried the dead and returned to our horses 
we commenced a search about the Indian camp. We found 
baskets, great quantities of pinons cached, the bridle of Mr. 
Merriam's horse, a pair of shoes which belonged to Mr. Eric- 
son, and his hat with a bullet hole through it, covered with 
blood. We each took as many piiions as we could carry. 
One or two stayed behind and destroyed all that remained by 
burning them. 


"Unless something- is done for us we shall have much 
trouble. We cannot prospect and watch Indians at the same 
time. We cannot prospect with a rifle. There is no need of 
a military force near San Carlos— we can defend it our- 
selves; but we want stations along the valley so £hat people 
may safely pass, and prospectors find a refuge from the 
savage, who is peaceful today and warlike tomorrow." 

The chase seeming to be hopeless, return was 
made to San Carlos. On the way down, the party 
met two men named Bell and Slocum at Big Pine, 
where they had gone with the idea of starting a 
sawmill. Indians had warned them to leave, and 
after talking with the Phillips company they con- 
cluded that it would be wise to comply. 

Henderson and associates, mining in the south- 
eastern Inyo ranges, had been driven out in March 
by Indian dangers. They went back after an ab- 
sence of not more than a month. On reaching the 
Josephine mill they learned that Chief Bigfoot had 
the better of a fight with the miners the day before 
and had gone across to the Panamint Mountains. 
Henderson w^aited until the arrival of Ringgold 
from Owens Lake, and the two followed the trail 
of White and others to their mines in the Pana- 
mints. After traveling seventy miles the camp of 
White was found at Mesquite Springs. Going on, 
Indians were seen in pursuit. Henderson and 
Ringgold waited until they came near enough to 
parley. The Indian spokesman said in Spanish 
that White and his men were up in the mountains. 
The whites, seeing that a battle was intended, 
opened fire and killed two of the leaders. A fifteen- 
mile running fight ensued ; its casualties were the 
killing of three Indians and Ringgold's being left 


afoot by the killing of his horse. Henderson vis- 
ited the neighborhood in 1870, and found parts of 
the skeletons of three men and some bones of a 
woman in the rnins of a cabin which had been 
burned at Combination Camp. He gives the date 
of the killing of his companions as April 13, 1863. 

Work had begun at the Josephine two years 
earlier. Machineiy for its ten-stamp mill was the 
first freight brought into Inyo, as freight; this 
was hauled by T. F. A. Connelly in 1862 via Walk- 
er's Pass. J. W. Wadleigh was superintendent of 
the Josephine venture at that time. The mill was 
built at Granite Springs. It was a crude affair, 
as would be expected in a remote country where 
the delivery of each pound of freight involved a 
cost of twenty-five cents for transportation ; while 
the shoes and dies of its batteries were iron, wood 
served for the stems and wherever else possible. 
Primitive though the plant was, its owners later 
put a valuation of $250,000 on it when they tried to 
collect from the Government for its loss as an 
Indian depredation. It was burned during this 
year. Its destruction was attributed to Indians, 
by the owners. Not all the pioneers in the country 
agreed in this conclusion, however ; some of them 
said the mill was never profitable, and that its loss 
was to the advantage of those interested. Cer- 
tainly they tried to secure ample reimbursement 
from the nation — an attempt which freighter 
Connelly's evidence helped to block. 

Slate Range mines had been discovered by 
Dennis and John Searles and others in 1861, and 
they had a mill built in time to be burned during 


the troubles ; this was unquestionably done by the 

Ten or twelve skulls of white men, and other 
human bones, were found under a shelving pile of 
rocks near Anvil Springs in 1874. Nothing was 
known of the identity of the victims or of the time 
of their deaths. The supposition was that they 
had there taken refuge from Indians and had all 
been killed. For this discovery there has been 
found but one authority. It is certain, however, 
that an unknown number perished on the lone- 
some trails of that region. 





There were no further encounters of conse- 
quence in Owens Valley during the later months 
of 1863. In the belief that Indian warfare was at 
an end, settlers began coming in a steadily in- 
creasing stream to the little settlements, and new 
places sprang up. A letter to the Alta California, 
dated at San Carlos September 4, 1863, reviews 
a number of ''rushes" to different localities — 
"White Mountains, Slate Mountain, Keyes District, 
Head of the Lake, and the Sierra foothills. 

"Mills are going up and houses are being built at San 
Carlos and elsewhere. The San Carlos company have finished 
2,700 feet of their ditch and are rapidly progressing with 
their mill. The Center comj^any are running three tunnels. 
The Nelson mining company are about to commence work, 
their teams, with provisions, tools, etc., having arrived. The 
Monster Hill Tunnel company, Regina Tunnel company, and 
Clara company are about to commence. The Inyo G. & S. M. 
company have commenced running a tunnel on the Lucerne 
and Granada. From Chrysopolis the most flattering accounts 
and rock full of gold are sent down. In Russ district sev- 
eral companies are at work. The Eclipse is turning out very 
rich ore and is of great extent. If it is not the richest mine 



in all California we are all mistaken It would be im- 
possible to name or notice the numerous leads which have 

been recorded in the various districts Our. miners, who 

are generally men of education, vie with each other in select- 
ing refined names for their mines. Silver Cloud, Norma, 
Oljrmpic, Golden Era, Welcome, Chrysopolis, Gem, Green 
Monster, Blue Bird, Red Bird, Evadne, Fleta, Bonnie Blos- 
som, Calliope, Romelia, Lucerne, Pluto's Pet, Birousa, Proser- 
pine, Atahualpa, and Ida are among the mines here. 

"San Carlos is progressing rapidly. It now boasts of two 
stores, two butcher shops, two assay offices, an express of- 
fice, a saloon, and mechanics of all kinds. 

"Our population is about 200. Yesterday we polled 106 
votes, 58 of which were Union. Many of our citizens went 
down to the Union mill to vote, as it was feared there might 
be a dispute, it not being certain yet whether we are in Mono 
or Tulare county. Others who claim a residence in Mono 
went up to Van Fleet's to vote. 

"There is a new express started from San Carlos via 
Aurora. Perhaps when we grow a little, Messrs. Wells, Fargo 
& Co. will honor us with an office. We are quite as worthy 
of it as Fresno City, yet I saw their sign on a house there, 
which was, at the time, deserted." 

A letter to the Alta from Bend City, December 

"The Coso company is running its plant, eight-stamp mill, 
five amalgamating pans, sawmill and blacksmith shop, at the 
foot of Big (Owens) Lake. The rock is hauled from the 
mines, sixteen miles away. J. S. Allen is superintendent. 

"At Owens River, the Union mill is at work; eight-stamp; 
steam used here and at Ida mill, a mile above. 

"At Bend City, now about thirty houses; adobes. This 
city has been regularly surveyed. A grand ball is on the 
tapis for Christmas Eve. The most work has been done by 
the Clara company. Mt. St. George, in the first range of 
hills at the foot of the Inyo Range adjoining town, appears 
to be a complete network of leads of the richest mineral. The 
Clara company has fourteen claims. With regard to the In- 


dians, all has been quiet on Owens River for months past, 
and there is no prospect of a renewal of hostilities." 

A San Carlos correspondent mentions the first 
death in the camp, except those from Indian war- 
fare, as that of a man named Warner, February 
11, 1864, his demise resulting from an accidental 
wound in the arm. The marriage of Mr. Woolsey 
to Miss Warner (no relative of the deceased) is 
mentioned in the same epistle — doubtless the first 
marriage in the valley. This letter predicts great 
things for Keyes District and the Rubicon mine, 
somewhere in the later Poleta neighborhood. 

Owensville was for a few years the chief point 
in the northern part of the valley. A letter from 
there to the San Francisco Alta California, and 
published in December, contained the following: 

"I have just an-ived with a party of fifty-six men, one 
family, eighty-two yoke of oxen and saddle horses innumer- 
able. The valley contains fifty-two claims of 160 acres each, 
and Wm. McBride and the Hutchison boys have surveyed the 
Bishop Creek Valley at the risk of their lives. Just heard 
of forty men, all fanners, and twelve ox teams, who have 

Most detailed maps of the time designated as 
"Bishop Creek Valley" that part of Owens Valley 
north of Big Pine Creek. 

Another letter, in a later issue of the Alta, 
said : 

"A few months ago scarce a house could be seen through- 
out the extent of this valley, but now animation, life and 
activity greet the eye wherever you look. A fine settlement 
has been formed at Lone Pine, near the mouth of Owens 
River. Bend City is a town of sixty or seventy houses. San 
Carlos is about the same size, and both rapidly improving; 


while further up the river Chrysopolis, Galena, Riverside 
(alias Graham City) and Owensville are raising their voices 
for recognition." 

Other ambitious camps mentioned in notes of 
the period were Benton, Partzwick, Yellow Jacket, 
Camp Enterprise and Montgomery, all in what is 
now southern Mono County. 

Galena and Riverside, or Graham City, as well 
as Camp Enterprise, are now so completely buried 
in oblivion that even their sites cannot be learned 
by the inquirer. 

Owensville was on the east bank of Owens 
River, near the present Laws. A circular corral, 
standing within its townsite, is built of stones that 
once served as foundations for Owensville build- 
ings. A little to the northeast, a rough slab of 
stone marks the grave of Mrs. T. H. Soper, who 
died there. No other trace of pioneer habitation 
remains ; the old-time streets are part of the river 
bottom's level and unbroken meadow. 

John Soper, a resident of the place when his 
mother died, later went to Hawaii and was com- 
mander in chief of the military forces of the pro- 
visional government of Hawaii, which forces de- 
throned Queen Liluokalani preceding the islands 
becoming American. In correspondence Gen. 
Soper narrated the shooting of two members of a 
gang of ruffians from Montana, by "Pap" Rus- 
sell; also the unsuccessful attempt of a disrep- 
utable resident to organize a punitive expedition 
against the Indians because two old squaws had 
given him a thrashing, doubtless deservedly. 

John E. and Thomas E. Jones, pioneer settlers 


in Round Valley, came to Owensville in 1864. 
Notes by T. E. Jones enumerate many of its resi- 
dents, among them the father and mother of Rev. 
Andrew Clark, the valley's pioneer minister; their 
son Thomas ; the Soper, Gill and Hightower fam- 
ilies ; J. L. Garretson, H. Caleff, J. F. and Thomas 
K. Hutchison, A. Thomson, W. P. George, William 
Horton, W. S. Bailey, Reuben Merriman, Frank 
Powers, William and John McBride, nearly all of 
whom were well known in Inyo in later years, and 
most of whom ended their days here. George 
Hightower and wife were residents, and their 
daughter Ada was the first white child born in this 
part of Owens Valley. John B. Wliite, who was 
murdered at Big Pine twenty-odd years later, had 
a saloon. John W. McMurry was storekeeper, 
restaurant man and postmaster. He chanced to 
become the victim of an accidental shot, getting 
a bullet from a burning house from which he 
was saving property. He recovered, to become a 
leading citizen of Big Pine. Andy Ault and Jesse 
Spray and their wives were among the arrivals 
from Bridgeport. Ault took the liberty, at Adobe 
Meadows on the way down, to kill an Indian whom 
he suspected of having stolen his pistol. Whether 
or not he felt mortified over his act when he later 
found the gun hanging on the wall under a gar- 
ment is not recorded. 

Milo Page, a participant in many of the hap- 
penings of the period, told of a Fourth of July 
celebration in Owensville in 1864. Will Hicks 
Graham, a capable lawyer who was said to have 
been Pat Reddy's instructor, was master of cere- 


monies and reader of the declaration; John 
Evans, superintendent of the Great Eastern min- 
ing company, chaplain ; W. P. George, orator. Mu- 
sic and singing by the seven ladies present was 
much appreciated by the 150 men who attended. 
The instrument used was a portable melodeon, 
belonging to and played by Thomas Soper. There 
were many Southerners among the men, but all 
joined in the commemoration regardless of the 
great war then waging between the States. Still 
earlier than this, on May 1, had occurred probably 
the first social event of any kind in the northern 
part of the valley, a dance in a ten by twelve adobe 
cabin. One of the institutions of the place was 
a lodge of the Sons of Temperance, of which C. C. 
Scott was the head. 

Aurora was the nearest source of supplies. 
Communication was difficult, and stores ran low 
at times. During such a period, McMurry refused 
an offer of $20 for a sack of flour, saying that he 
would not sell it for $40, as he would need it for 
his family. A pony mail service was started by 
Daniel Wellington, and W. J. Gill was the rider. 
This service connected at Benton and Partzwick 
with a semi-weekly pony express to Aurora. Each 
letter had to bear the proper postage and to be 
accompanied by a twenty-five cent payment as 
recompense to the mail carrier. 

Owensville looked to mines in the White Moun- 
tains for its upbuilding. The Golden Wedge mine, 
at last accounts still bearing that same name and 
now included in a group known as the Southern 
Belle, was the first find; its discoverers were 


Charles Nunn and Eobert Morrison, who was later 
killed at Convict Lake. Another mine not wholly 
forgotten was the Yellow Jacket, belonging to a 
company organized in Gilroy, California. A re- 
duction plant was built on Swansea Flat (Fish 
Slough) by an Owensville company with T. H. 
Soper, president; H. Caleff, metallurgist; John 
Soper, H. Chambers, Gr. Thomas, Dawson, Snooks, 
the Round Valley Jones brothers and another 
Jones as members. An arrastra was built to pul- 
verize supposedly fireproof material transported 
to the scene by horse and ox-teams. Even barren 
quartz was crushed and brick molded from it. Al- 
leged fireproof stone was hauled from Aurora. 
Almost daily specimens were brought in by pros- 
pectors, and Tom Jones records that Judge Caleff 
usually pronounced them '^very fine conglomera- 
tions of argentiferous galena. ' ' The furnace was 
completed, and melted down as quickly as the ore 
with which it had been charged. Undaunted, the 
amateur smelters obtained different materials and 
built another plant. It was crammed full of wood, 
charcoal, ore and flux, and fired — and in a few 
hours was, like its predecessor, a seething, plastic 
pile of ruins. It may be noted that a precisely 
similar experience befell a furnace undertaking by 
Greenly, Edwards and others that same year at 
a site a little east of the present court house at 

Demands for lumber were met by the erection 
of a sawmill in the Sierras near Bishop, by John 
Pugh and Joe Spear, with T. D. Lew^is as its man- 
ager either from the first or soon after. Machinery 


for it was hauled by wagon from Stockton by Jolin 
Clarke, at a freight rate of twenty-five cents a 
pound. After the decline of Owensville this lum- 
ber was taken from its buildings and rafted down 
the river by A. A. Riddle, to be used in Indepen- 
dence and Lone Pine, and to a less extent in Big 
Pine. The latter settlement, when it started, had 
a mill nearer. Bell and Slocum having returned 
in 1864 to the project they had abandoned under 
protest the year before. 

Owensville 's career was brief. Its corner lots 
were held at $1,000 and even $1,500 each for a 
short time, but before the end of 1864 some of its 
buildings were torn down. One of them, the black- 
smith shop of the Consort mining company, was 
bought by Clarke and moved, becoming the first 
structure of any kind on the present Bishop town- 
site. It stood a little distance to the south of West 
Line street and near Main. It was put up late in 

During the quieter portion of 1863 a beginning 
on farm work was made not far from Bishop. W. 
P. George and associates put in a truck patch a 
little to the west. Andrew Thomson broke ground 
in West Bishop, and also established G. W. Norton 
on a place a mile north of the present townsite. 
Tom Evans located in Pleasant Valley. It is 
probable that similar undertakings were begun at 
Lone Pine that year, though no confirmation of 
that is available. A little patch of corn was 
planted at Independence. 

One of the companies operating in the White 
Mountains bore the name of the San Francisco. 


A ''town," called Graham City, after D. S. 
Graham, the superintendent, was started ''at the 
foot of Keyes District, opposite Bishop Creek 
Valley, ' ' says a letter of the time. No other iden- 
tification is obtainable, though its prospects were 
supposed to be so promising that a correspondent 
of the Alta wrote : "Should the mines (and of this 
there appears to be no doubt) turn out all right, 
this town will rival Aurora or Virginia itself for 
population." If there were other aspiring settle- 
ments, not herein named, north of Chrysopolis at 
that time no record of them has been left. 

John E. and Thomas E. Jones decided to un- 
dertake ranching in Round Valley, and sowed the 
first wheat there in the spring of 1865. They had 
been preceded by a man named William Frank, 
who had built a small stone cabin. The ranching 
experiment did not do well the first year, for in 
June the tilled acres were invaded by some of the 
many hundreds of cattle that were being ranged 
in that neighborhood, and no crop was grown and 
harvested until the following season. 

San Carlos miners had provided a free ferry 
across the river at their camp, a little north of 
east of Independence. The equipment was rafts, 
hauled back and forth by rawhide ropes. Bend 
City, a few miles farther south, was the center of 
population of the middle part of the valley during 
the latter part of 1864. There was also a primitive 
ferry, but for its use a toll was collected. The 
Bend Cityites, noting the free ferry at San Carlos, 
tired of paying tolls, especially as circulating me- 
dium of any kind was scarce. To escape this con- 


dition, it was decided to build a bridge across the 
river. An election to settle its location was held 
in December, and sixty votes were cast, according 
to the report of Will Hicks Graham, clerk. 

Mining was in progress for miles up and down 
that part of the range. The principal mines, from 
the Chrysopolis on the north to the Union, Ida 
and New York on the south, were the Green Mon- 
ster, Clara, Rothschild, Owens River, Gray Eagle, 
Maid of Erin, White Rover, Drummer Boy, Cen- 
ter, Concordia and Santa Rita. 

Nearly all of the sixty or more houses at Bend 
City were adobe. Among them were two hotels, of 
which the Morrow House was the ** swell" place. 
Five stores sold goods ; number of saloons not re- 
corded, but unquestionably ample. A circulating 
library was a public convenience in that period of 
scarce reading matter. Even a stock exchange was 
among the institutions, though a notation of a 
trade in which a burro was paid for a block of 
stock does not indicate brisk transactions. 

I. N. Buckwalter and A. C. Robinson, running 
a tunnel not far from the mouth of Mazourka Can- 
yon, twice lost their stores of provisions through 
Indian raids, but escaped personal harm. Mr. 
Buckwalter tells of paying $2.50 to a cobbler for 
nailing on a bootheel, using three sixpenny nails 
and three minutes of time. He made a trip to the 
valley in August, 1915, revisited those scenes, and 
unearthed a number of mining tools which he had 
cached when leaving, decades ago. 

Bend City was stirred by news that a man 
named William Graves had shot his partner dur- 


ing a row beside their campfire, in Deep Spring 
Valley. A vigilance committee was formed, but 
did nothing. Up to that time there was no peace 
officer of any kind in the valley ; the Tulare County 
officials then concluded to appoint a Justice of the 
Peace. They selected John Beveridge, whose name 
was later given in a mining district easterly from 
Lone Pine, as Justice, and a man named Kendall 
as Constable. 

In September, 1863, a second killing nearer 
home gave the vigilantes occasion to act. Men 
named Mitchell and Cuddy had disputed, and 
Cuddy had vowed to kill the other. Knife in hand 
he crossed the street of San Carlos and was shot 
and instantly killed by Mitchell, who fired from 
within John Lentell's store. Mitchell was taken 
into custody. T. F. A. Connelly acted as prose- 
cutor, and the Alta's correspondent, Campbell, 
served as attorney for the accused. A delegation 
of the vigilantes appeared and demanded to be al- 
lowed to remain during the hearing; otherwise 
they would take Mitchell and themselves dispose 
of the case. Consent being given, they remained, 
and at its close took a vote among themselves. 
They were unanimous in declaring it to have been 
a case of self-defense. The court did not hold the 
same opinion, however, for he held Mitchell for 
trial in Visalia. Constable Kendall proposed to 
make his prisoner walk the whole distance, he him- 
self riding on horseback. Members of the com- 
mittee found it necessary to compel more humane 
treatment. Mitchell was discharged, after remain- 
ing in the Visalia jail for a few months. 


White Mountain City and Roachville were set- 
tlements just over the White Mountain summit 
from Owens Valley, in that White Mountain Dis- 
trict which had been used for fraudulent election 
purposes in 1861. A writer visiting there early in 
1864 tells all that we know of these would-be min- 
ing centers; the ''city" from which he wrote was 
on Wyman Creek, on the Deep Spring slope; its 
rival, Roachville, was on Cottonwood Creek, and 
was named by its proprietor, William Roach, hail- 
ing from Santa Cruz. Both places had regularly 
surveyed town plats. S. (no doubt Scott) Broder 
was the District Recorder. 





Formation of new counties in California is 
now dependent on a comparatively large popula- 
tion, the idea apparently being that all sections of 
the State are fairly well supplied with local gov- 
ernment. Railroads, telegraphs and automobiles 
have annihilated distance. It was very different 
in the '60 's. The sparse and widely separated 
communities were days apart in communication; 
the latter was limited to horse-flesh as a means 
of travel ; there were no telegraphs in the outlying 
regions; and the whole west was lawless enough 
at the best. Only a liberal policy of county crea- 
tion could provide any civil control over tens of 
thousands of square miles of territory. Maps of 
that period show counties duly outlined, but with- 
out a single place prominent enough to be noted. 

Mono had been officially created in 1861. It 
was presumed to include the booming camp of 
Aurora ; but when a corrected survey proved that 
Aurora was outside of its borders the county's 



population was so small that the first census there- 
after gave it a total of but 430, Indians included. 
AVitli this and other examples before them, Owens 
Valleyans did not hesitate to petition the Legisla- 
ture, in February, 1864, to create a county on this 
slope south of Mono. It was proposed to name 
the county Monache, to make San Carlos its 
county seat, and to establish the northern bound- 
ary near Mono Lake. But when the petition 
reached the Legislature and in accordance with it 
a bill was introduced, the name given was Coso, 
Big Pine Creek was designated as the northern 
line, and Bend City was selected as the seat of 
government until such time as an election might 
decide differently. This was to be determined by 
an election set for June 6, 1864, at which time a 
full corps of county officers was to be chosen. E. 
S. Sayles, Gr. J. Slocum, D. C. Owen, John E. 
Hughes and John Lentell were named as commis- 
sioners to designate precincts, name election of- 
ficers, canvass returns, and do other things 
necessary to start the new machinery, they to co- 
operate with a county judge to be appointed by 
Governor Low. The Governor offered the position 
to Dr. S. G. George, but he declined it. Owens 
Valleyans favored 0. L. Matthews, but no ap- 
pointment was made. 

The population of the proposed county was 
overwhelmingly Eepublican. A convention of that 
political faith was called, and met in San Carlos 
about May 24th. Any one who stated himself to 
be a Republican was admitted and allowed full 
voice in proceedings. The result of an orderly 


and harmonious session was the nomination of 
W. A. Greenly for Sheriff, John Thorn for Clerk, 
Abraham Parker for Treasurer and W. S. Mor- 
row for Attorney. 

Whether because of neglect or some other rea- 
son not now known, the election was not held 
June 6th. As the law gave no authority for hold- 
ing it at any other time the whole organization 
went by default. 

Another law passed at the legislative session 
that sought to establish Coso County chartered a 
corporation under the name of the Owens River 
Canal Company, for constructing canals for 
transportation of passengers and freight and for 
using Owens River for irrigation and water 
power. The company was granted the right to 
improve the river canyon and to collect tolls for 
a period of fifteen years. Its rates were to be 
fixed by the Supervisors of Mono County, but 
were to be such that the estimated revenues would 
yield 2 per cent per month on the investment. 
Mono was to have the right to take up the invest- 
ment after ten years if the county so desired. R. 
S. Whigham, Speer Riddle, William Fleming, 
William P. Pratt and Isaac Swain were named as 
trustees of the company. No more was ever heard 
of the project. 

These gropings toward local self-government 
and permanency were broken into by further 
threats of Indian troubles. The abandonment of 
Camp Independence the year before had been 
highly unwelcome to the settlers. Particularly 
after the Merriam affair the white people avoided 


the neighborhoods which Joaquin Jim, most 
dreaded among the Indian leaders, claimed as his 
own. During the latter part of 1864 depreda- 
tions began once more, and lone white men were 
picked off when it could be done safely. One 
such instance was in the Black Eocks. A Visalian 
named Watkins brought a band of horses into 
the valley and located not far from Black Eock 
Spring. His position was isolated, and he fell an 
easy prey. This event and others pointing to a 
fresh outbreak led to the sending of petitions to 
General McDowell, then commanding at the Pre- 
sidio. McDowell could not, or at least did not, 
spare any troops for Owens Valley. Learning this, 
many residents struck out for safer climes; the 
remaining inhabitants determined to fight the 
issue to a finish. They, and not the soldiers, 
ended the Indian war. The return of a military 
force after the last killing of natives at Owens 
Lake, and the maintenance of that force for a 
dozen years afterward, doubtless had a useful 
part in preventing subsequent outbreaks. 

The citizens of Owensville organized with Will 
Hicks Graham as captain, and at Bend City W. L. 
C'Dad") Moore and W. A. Greenly were selected 
to lead the volunteer forces. 

Among the miners who ventured into the 
mountains believing that hostilities were over 
were three named Crow, Mathews and Byrnes. 
They located a claim which they called the Cin- 
derella, at a point about four miles from the Gil- 
bert ranch, east of the White Mountains. On 
November 21st, 1864, Mathews was cooking din- 


ner while his partners were at the claim. An 
Indian and squaw came to the camp and asked 
for something to eat. As Mathews turned to get 
them something, the Indian shot him through 
the jaw. About the same time a shot ended the 
life of Crow, working at the mine windlass. His 
body either fell into the shaft or was thrown in 
by the Indians. Byrnes, 60 or 70 feet below, 
was kept busy dodging rocks w^ith which the at- 
tackers tried to kill him, but by dextrous use of 
liis shovel he managed to fend off the missiles. 
Believing their purpose accomplished the Indians 

Mathews had been wounded, but not enough 
to prevent his fighting. When he opened fire the 
two who had attacked him ran away. He was sure 
his partners had been killed, and determined to 
strike out for Owens Valley. He had a rifle, a 
shotgun and a revolver, but soon threw away both 
of the large weapons. It took him two agonizing 
days to get over the mountains, his sufferings be- 
ing intensified by lack of water. Beaching Owens 
River, he fell into shallow water while trymg to 
get a drink. This loosened the clotted blood in 
his mouth and throat — a relief on which he dwelt 
in narrating the circumstances. The attention of 
a horseman was attracted, and Mathews was 
taken to a ranch where Big Pine now is. For 
many days he was fed through a cowhorn, and at 
last he recovered his general health. He was 
never afterward free from some effects of his 
wound, however ; to the day of his death, in Round 
Valley twenty-four years later, his speech was 


intelligible to only a few. He had been in Cali- 
fornia since 1831. 

"WTiile Mathews was escaping, Byrnes was 
prisoned in the shaft with the body of Crow for 
company. The Indians had taken away the wind- 
lass rope. Joe Bowers, Indian chieftain, came to 
the place soon afterward and found means of 
lowering water to Byrnes, then came across the 
mountains and told the whites what had occurred. 
S. Gr. Gregg went as far as Lone Pine and gathered 
a party of thirty men to rescue Byrnes. The 
latter had been in the shaft five days when he was 
hauled out. The body of Crow was buried there. 

Now mark the ingratitude of the man whose 
life Joe had saved. The Piute leader had his 
home camp at a place called Antelope Springs. 
A few years subsequently Byrnes decided that he 
needed the land and water more than Joe Bowers 
did, so he drove the latter away. Joe went to 
Independence and told his loyal white friends, 
who formed a posse and forced Byrnes to vacate. 
Fourteen also joined in an agreement to support 
Joe, as a reward for his friendship and services 
during the Indian troubles, and thenceforward 
he was quarterly supplied with provisions and 
clothing. Capt. MacGowan, a later commandant 
at Camp Independence, employed him as a scout. 
The departure of the soldiers from Owens Valley, 
when the post was finally abandoned, dropped Joe 
from the payroll, but left him with a claim to a 
six dollar pension. This was regularly collected 
by S. G. Gregg and used for the old Piute's wel- 
fare. Signing the receipt for this (with an X) 


was an important ceremony for the beneficiary. 
He was taken to San Francisco in 1871 to see the 
wondrous achievements of the white man, and 
attracted no little attention. During the early 
70 's, a reception given to a land officer who had 
engineered a land steal caused a burlesque of the 
affair to be given in Joe 's honor, at which he was 
presented with a hat, a pipe and tobacco, and 
made a speech admitting his own merits. He died 
early in this century in Deep Spring Valley. 

It is not to be inferred that Joe was a second 
Uncas in virtues. He had many of the failings of 
his people, and one of the chief cares of his white 
friends was to see that he did not gamble away 
what they provided for his welfare. He took a 
moral view of things, and his condemnations of 
intemperance and other vices were more pic- 
turesque and forcible than adapted for polite ears. 
He had foreseen more clearly than his fellows the 
ultimate success of the whites, and appreciated 
the advantages they possessed. He was always 
their friend, sometimes at his own peril, and was 
respected by his own people as well. 

The murder of Mrs. McGuire and her little son 
at Haiwai, and the settlers' retribution in Indian 
lives, were with one exception the last items of 
Indian warfare. 

The waters of Haiwee reservoir of the Los 
Angeles aqueduct system now cover lands known 
in pioneer days, and for years later, as Haiwai 
Meadows. (Haiwai is the Indian word for dove.) 
To those meadows, 25 miles south of Owens Lake, 
came in 1864 a man named McGuire, with his 


wife and six-year-old son. They established a 
little way station, which received the patronage 
of the scant travel between Visalia and Owens 
Valley. The hostess endeared herself to all who 
came, and her bright little son was a favorite. 
On the last day of 1864 two men were at the 
place. Their names as given by H. T. Eeed, 
whose letter written a few days later is principally 
followed in the details of which he professed to 
be well informed, were Newman and Flanigan. 
Another account calls them O'Dale and Kitt- 
ridge — which may be remarked to somewhat 
resemble the names Coverdale and Ethridge, of 
earlier Inyo record. McGuire had occasion to go 
to Big Pine for a plow, and asked them to remain 
until he returned. Before daylight of the follow- 
ing morning, January 1, 1865, the occupants of 
the house were awakened by fire, and found that 
the roof was blazing. The men ran out, but on 
being fired on ran back into the house. They 
commenced knocking off shingles from the inside, 
and by using what water was at hand and the 
brine from several barrels of corned beef had 
nearly extinguished the fire when the attack was 
renewed with firebrands, stones and shots. The 
heat became so intense that to remain inside was 
impossible. The men urged Mrs. McGuire to run 
with them and endeavor to escape; she refused, 
saying that nothing could save them and it would 
be no use. Flanigan and Newman, unwilling to 
share her peril, ran, escaping with a wound in 
the forehead of one and a shot through the hat 
of the other. Says Reed's letter: ''They arrived 


here (at Little Lake, 17 miles) at 11 a. m., New- 
man weak from loss of blood and both nearly 
exhausted. ' ' 

Walter James and John Harmon, southbound, 
reached Haiwai that forenoon. Smoke was still 
rising from the burned dwelling. A hundred feet 
or more from it was Mrs. McGuire, with fourteen 
arrows in her body, mercifully insensible and with 
but a little span of life remaining. The little boy 
was dead. His tiny hand clasped a stone, indicat- 
ing a spirit of defense to the last. Six arrows 
had pierced his body, and had been pulled out by 
his mother. Quoting Eeed again, ''Both Mr. and 
Mrs. McGuire had done more for the Indians than 
they were able, often denying themselves to feed 
them. Her loss is deeply felt by all, and no one 
who ever stopped there will fail to remember the 
hearty welcome and the happy face of bright little 
Johnny and his noble mother." 

The bodies of the victims were placed in a 
wagon box and James remained to guard them 
while Harmon hurried back to Owens Lake. A 
messenger was sent to Lone Pine, where the 
bodies were brought that day for burial. 

Some pioneers who were implacable foes of 
the Indians acquitted the latter of guilt for this 
atrocity, maintaining that it was the deed of the 
two white men. Reed's letter indicates no such 
doubt, however, nor does any other account or 
reference at the time nor the later story of it 
written in a letter by W. L. Moore. The arrows 
found and the trail followed by the avengers sup- 
ported the white fugitives' story. The unmanly 


and selfish cowardice of those men received ample 
comment in the accounts at that time. 

A dozen or more men, headed by W. L. Moore 
and W. A. Greenly, immediately started for 
Haiwai, camping near Olancha that night. The 
next day they went to Haiwai and took np the 
trail of a party of fifteen or sixteen Indians until 
it divided among the sand hills east of the 
meadows. Some of the natives had started 
southerly to the Kern River trail, the rest going 
northerly and east of Owens Lake. From the 
dividing point the citizens returned to Haiwai, 
and Moore and Thos. Passmore (each of whom 
later became Sheriff and each of whom was killed 
in the discharge of official duty) took up the trail 
of Newman and Flanigan. On the way they picked 
up a loaded rifle, a little further on a loaded pistol, 
and still further along a shotgun with one barrel 
loaded. The trail was followed to Little Lake, 
where the two men were found. They told the 
stor>^ as here written. They were told to leave 
the country at once and not to return, under 
penalty of death. 

"When Moore and Passmore returned to Haiwai 
the party went to Coso, reaching that settlement 
January 3d. The Mexican miners who composed 
its population showed no disposition to aid in any 
way or to accommodate the Americans. The lat- 
ter wasted scant ceremony in supplying the needs 
of themselves and their animals. Returning toward 
the valley, the Lidian trail was again picked 
up, and followed directly to an Indian camp near 
the lake shore east of the river's mouth. The 
party rode on past the camp to Lone Pine. 


Four Piute prisoners were being held in that 
settlement. Some of the citizens advocated 
slaughtering them forthwith; others objected. 
Subsequent proceedings are narrated by a pio- 

"During the discussion one of the Indians saw a chance to 
run, and did so, escaping at least a score of shots until Dick 
Mead jumped on a horse and overtook and killed the fugi- 
tive. Thos. May and John Tilly took the remaining prisoners 
to Tilly's house for safe keeping during the night. One, out- 
side with May, made a break for liberty and was shot. Those 
in the house, hearing the shot, also undertook to escape, when 
Tilly killed one with a blow from a six-shooter and May shot 
the other." 

A general council of whites was held at Lone 
Pine, and it was determined to inflict a crushing 
blow on the natives by destroying their settle- 
ment near the mouth of Owens River. A day or 
two was spent in gathering a force, which left 
Lone Pine during the night of January 5th to 
reach the lake camp by daylight of the 6th. 
Greenly and Moore were selected as commanders ; 
with them were Passmore, Tilly, Chas. D. Begole, 
Thos. May, T. F. A. Connelly, Dick Mead, R. M. 
Shuey, H. Meyer, John Kispert, F. W. Fickert 
(later a prominent rancher of the Tehachipi re- 
gion), James Heffner, Haslem, McGuire (husband 
of the murdered woman), Rogers (whose shocking 
ending will be presently recorded). Green Hitch- 
cock and three or four of his brothers, Charles 
Robinson, and others to a total strength of thirty- 

The plan was for Greenly 's detachment to cross 


the river and guard against escape to the east- 
ward, while Moore's party was to attack the camp. 
Snow covered the ground. The Indians, unsus- 
picious of danger, had no sentries, and were asleep 
in their camp when the attack began. Greenly 's 
three-mile detour was not allowed for, and Moore 
and his men had practically concluded the bloody 
work before Grreenly appeared. 

According to the judgment of those who had 
trailed the Indians from Haiwai, eight or ten of 
the perpetrators of that atrocity were in the lake 
camp. For their guilt the whole village popula- 
tion, of whom at least three-fourths were innocent 
of any possible participation in the Haiwai deed, 
were ruthlessly slaughtered — as the whites would 
have been had circumstances been reversed. 
Neither age nor sex were spared among the 
forty-one who died there. Six Indians had taken 
to the icy waters of the lake. The account by 
Fickert said that two squaws and two little boys 
were permitted to come out alive ; that of T. F. A. 
Connelly said that three, a boy and his two sisters, 
were spared. McGuire shot two bucks in the 
water. The boy, aged about fourteen, was shot 
at, and asked in English why they wanted to kill 
him. He said he had not hurt any one. Heffner 
told him that if he would come out he would not 
be hurt. The boy also said his two sisters were 
in the lake, and was bidden to tell them to come 

By this time the Greenly subdivision had come 
up. Some in each party were anxious to do away 
with the young captives. Heffner asked how many 


would stand with him in protecting them, and 
about half declared in his favor. The wrangle 
threatened to result in bloodshed among the citi- 
zens, when Mead requested all who favored spar- 
ing the children to stand with him. Two-thirds 
of the company moved to his side, after which 
there was no further argument. The girls were 
taken as far as the foot of the lake and there 
released. Heffner adopted the boy. 

This version faithfully follows accounts given 
to the author, personally or by letter, by several 
of the men who were present, and narratives 
written by others within a few years of the oc- 
currence. This fact is mentioned because this 
affair, more than any other occurrence of the In- 
dian war, was distorted and garbled in California 
papers at the time. Some of the reports then pub- 
lished contradict themselves, when read by any 
one who knows the country. Some other state- 
ments they contain may or may not have been 
true, no other light having been obtained. One 
was that an Indian had Mrs. McGuire's purse, 
with a few dollars in money ; this is probably false, 
as the McGuire house was not raided. Another 
was that one of the slain Indians had a rifle which 
had belonged to William Jones, a miner, said to 
have been killed in the White Mountains two weeks 
before. Large quantities of freshly painted ar- 
rows were said to have been found in the camp; 
no account given to the writer mentioned such a 
find, though it may have been made. 

Apparently a little earlier than the Owens Lake 
affair, a sortie by a white expedition resulted in 


the killing of seventeen Indians near the stream 
now known as Division Creek, north of Independ- 
ence. Two prisoners at Camp Independence were 
shot by a man named McVickers, who said they 
were attempting to escape. 

January 3d a white force of seventeen men 
went to the Black Rocks and found that the Piutes 
had burned the camps and fled to the mountains, 
killing cattle as they went. 

A little earlier than this, probably in the fall 
of 1864, an Indian Agent had visited the valley, 
accompanied by a Lieutenant Daley, who re- 

"The Indian supplies are not good, and most of the In- 
dians have left for the mountains. The Indian Agent invited 
them to come in; sixteen came, who said they had been mal- 
treated. Said the whites would not pay the Indians who 
worked for them. I learned from Mr. Maloney, one of the 
present proprietors of Camp Independence, that settlers 
would go to Tule River reservation for Indians to come and 
work, and when they got through would decline paying them 
and drive them away. The Indians said they would retaliate 
and drive the whites out." 

Reed, heretofore quoted, wrote that Daley's 
report was not founded on fact, and that he knew 
of no single instance where the Indians had been 
treated wrongfully. Nor does it look reasonable, 
in view of all the trouble that had occurred, that 
any settler would go as far off as Tule River in 
order to bring back more Indians with whom 
he planned to have further difficulty. The migra- 
tion to the mountains was probably for pine-nut 

The Union mill was burned during that winter. 


but whether by Indians is not clear. Out in the 
desert conditions still remained dangerous. While 
it is possible that a lone prospector now and then 
paid the penalty of being too venturesome, only 
one other item of warlike action has been recorded. 
It was two years later ; though out of chronologi- 
cal order it is here included to complete the story 
of warfare. 

A raid was made by Indians on the "Spanish 
mines," (probably Cerro Gordo, then inhabited by 
a few Mexicans), on March 4, 1867. One of the 
miners was killed, and everything portable was 
taken away. Cattle and horses had been killed at 
the lake just before. On March 7th a detachment 
of twelve cavalrymen, under Sergeant F. R. Neil, 
was sent from Camp Independence, to pursue and 
if possible chastise the offenders. Owing to the 
immense amount of snow on the eastern moun- 
tains the pursuit to the desert, when the Indians 
had come, could not be made, and the soldiers 
returned to Thomas Franklin's ranch near Owens 
Lake. Franklin offered to guide the party, and 
at 3 o'clock on the morning of March 12th the 
start was made. It was expected that the Indians 
would be found at Coso Hot Springs, but they 
were not there. The route was then to ''Rainy 
Springs Canyon," twenty miles distant, where 
*'sign" was found. About 4:30 in the afternoon 
the rancheria was reached, on a slope surrounded 
by large pine trees. The troopers dismounted 
and took a trail made by squaws in carrying water 
to their camp. As the party reached the summit 
of the slope each party saw the other, and firing 


began. The white men charged while the reds 
fled to positions behind rocks. The chief, Cap- 
tain Barbe, handled his men skillfully, and ex- 
posed himself too bravely, for he was shot and 
killed. The troopers were formerly of Sheridan 's 
army, veterans in war, and they drove the enemy 
from rock to rock, killing four warriors besides 
the chief, and wounding others. Returning to the 
rancheria, which was the best appointed and pro- 
visioned the men had seen, the soldiers found many 
articles known to have been stolen from whites; 
among them was a pistol known to have been 
taken the preceding fall when an attack was made 
on a mine. After destroying the camp, the ex- 
pedition started for Owens Lake, where it arrived 
after a continuous ride of 90 miles. Thomas 
Franklin, whose account is here given, wrote that 
although he was a heavy loser from Indian depre- 
dations, he felt that he had satisfaction. 

During January, 1865, Company C, com- 
manded by Captain Kelly (who was alleged to 
have won his commission from Nevada's Gover- 
nor in a poker game), reached the vicinity of the 
present town of Bishop and remained until April, 
when on peremptory orders the company went on 
to Camp Independence. That post was then con- 
tinuously garrisoned until its abandonment in 
1877. The soldiers were sent out against the 
Piutes but once more, in 1870. A company went 
to Round Valley; its presence sufficed, and there 
was no fighting. The Indian attitude was defiant 
and sullen for some years. The conflict of tribal 
customs and of white opinions regarding the kill- 



ing of Indian doctors threatened trouble as late 
as 1877, when the dominant race undertook to 
punish murders of condemned medicine men. 

It has been noted that one Indian leader never 
did submit to white rule. Joaquin Jim, while he 
ceased marauding, remained aloof to the end of 
his days. The Indian story was he came to his 
death, some years after the war, from overeating 
some special tribal delicacy ; the white version was 
that he was killed by one of his own warriors. 
Another so-called Joaquin Jim appeared at Tule 
Eiver reservation in 1863 to be treated for wounds 
received in Owens Valley. A squad of soldiers 
from Camp Babbitt went to arrest him, but he 
saw them coming, fled, and was pursued and 
killed. ''The body was found with a number of 
fresh wounds and many scars. Joaquin Jim was 
known to have murdered two white men in cold 
blood, and had fought desperately in several bat- 
tles," said a published report. Nevertheless, that 
Indian was not the noted leader of the southern 

Perhaps it is not the business of a record of 
this character to philosophize on the Indian war 
subject. The facts as nearly as they can be had 
have been set down ; the comments of men writing 
at the time, some for, some against, the natives, 
have been impartially given. Probably it will 
lead to a conclusion that the whites were not all 
free from wrong; that the Indian's resistance to 
trespassing on the domain that had always been 
his was but natural; that however pathetic the 
native's displacement as overlord, the white dom- 


ination, here as elsewhere, and its making use of 
resources which to the Indian meant much less 
than the comfortable living the conquerors have 
brought him, were inevitable and necessary. 

Residents of Owensville estimated the total 
death list of the war, so far as they knew it, to be 
60 whites and about 250 Indians. 




Re-establishment of a garrison at Camp In- 
dependence, together with the severity of lessons 
given to the Indians on every provocation, justi- 
fied white settlers in believing that their su- 
premacy in Owens Valley would not be again dis- 
puted. Almarin B. Paul, writing from Kearsarge 
May 5, 1866, said: "It is now fully as safe to 
travel up and down the valley, as far as Indians 
go, as it is in the streets of Sacramento or San 
Francisco. The worst class of Indians who 
formerly made this valley their hunting ground 
have moved farther eastward. Those who are in 
the valley prefer peace and to work, which they 
do for fifty cents a day and hogadie." Increased 
activity in prospecting and in settlement began. 
Grrowth was slow, nevertheless. Visalia and Los 
Angeles, to the south, and Aurora, to the north, 
were the nearest places of importance. Each was 
over 200 miles away, reached by trying roads. 
Besides, the whole West was yet in the explora- 
tion period, and the idea of encouraging immi- 



gration had not been evolved. Five years later, 
the census of 1870 showed a total Inyo population 
of but 1956, of whom most were Indians. 

Land entries had been made in 1863. Jacob 
Nash and E. D. French filed on claims near 
Olancha, March 9th ; John M. George located near 
Lone Pine, April 2d; James A. Brewer located 
at Greorge's Creek, May 21st; J. C. White did 
likewise at Independence, June 5th. None of these 
claims were perfected. The oldest completed claim 
in the valley was that of Thos. Edwards, for land 
on which the townsite of Independence was lo- 
cated. W. L. Moore, who with Chas. D. Begole as 
his partner had lived in the vicinity of Lone Pine 
for some years, filed on land there July 17, 1867. 
The pioneer claims at Big Pine were made during 
the last few months of 1869 by Duncan Campbell, 
Fred Eeinhakel, W. F. Uhlmeyer and S. G. Gregg. 
Record of the settlement of Bishop lands is not 
available, beyond the fact that the users of Bishop 
Creek water in 1870 numbered 34, among them 
some of the pioneers who had taken part in the 
exciting events of a few years before. The land 
filing dates given are from land office records; 
perhaps in most instances, as in that of Moore, the 
claimants had previously exercised a squatter 
right on the tracts to which they sought to estab- 
lish title. 

Most of the early settlements ''just growed," 
a la Topsy. Independence townsite plat is the 
oldest now to be found on the county records. Its 
survey, made at the instance of Thomas Edwards, 
was completed February 13, 1866, and recorded 


May 12, 1867. Few other places now existent were 
platted until they had attained some permanency. 
Laws, originally Bishop Station, was surveyed on 
the building of the railroad, some of its lots being 
where the primitive cabins of Owensville had 
stood. Keeler was also laid out when the railroad 
was built; whether its name should be Keeler or 
Hawley was for some time an unsettled question. 
Darwin was also one of the earlier surveyed town- 

To go slightly ahead of the story. Bend City 
faded away, its site ere many years marked by 
only piles of crumbled adobes through which the 
road from Independence to its railroad depot 
passed. San Carlos vanished even more com- 
pletely, though its mill was not torn down until 
1876. Long thereafter a lone smokestack stood 
to show where the camp had been. Owensville, 
by that name, lost its last inhabitant in 1871. 

An incident unique in its revolting depravity 
occurred in 1865. E. M. King, who claimed to 
have been a preacher, had located on a piece of 
ground near Owens Lake, on the Visalia road, and 
kept a place at which wayfarers were fed. There 
came to this place, in June, 1865, J. N., better 
known as ''Hog," Rogers. His uncomplimentary 
designation was conferred because of his being 
in the pork-raising business in western Tulare. He 
was one of the citizens at the Owens Lake massa- 
cre that January. When he arrived at King's, 
he had with him $1,500, the proceeds of selling 
property at Owensville. 

A little later travelers named Snow and Dear- 


bom tarried with King, who waited on and fed 
them. During the meal, of which they heartily 
partook. King asked them if they knew what kind 
of meat they had been eating. They replied that 
they supposed it was pork. "Well, that's some 
of old Rogers" was the startling enlightenment 
given. It developed that King had killed Rogers, 
made a razor strop from a strip of his skin, and 
had cut his flesh into pieces, some of which were 
then drying on the place. Other portions of the 
body had been fed to chickens. Snow and Dear- 
bom hastened to Independence, and after their 
story had been told a party w^ent to the lake and 
captured the murderer. He was brought to Inde- 
pendence, but escaped from there and went to 
Visalia, where he adopted the name of Butterfield. 
He was recognized by some one from Owens Val- 
ley, arrested, tried and found guilty, and was 
hanged in Visalia by the Sheriff, December 7, 
1865, the second legal execution in Tulare County. 
He made a full confession. 

A sawmill was cutting lumber near Big Pine, 
and another was established northwest of Inde- 
pendence. Up to that time the lumber used there 
had been cut by whipsaws. Among those who 
had been cutting in the primitive way were 
Thomas W. Hill, G. W. Cornell and A. Kittleson, 
camped at what was long known as Todd's, now 
Gray's Meadows, a few miles west of Indepen- 
dence. Hardships of the period were graphically 
related by Mr. Hill to the author during the course 
of a day's railroad journey together. The need 
for haste in gathering the reminiscences of the 


old-timers was singularly illustrated in his case, 
for tlie old pioneer died of heart failure before he 
left the car that evening. 

Cattle ranged all over the valley, Mr. Hill said. 
Owners knowing that Indians would take the stock 
as opportunity favored, gave settlers permission 
to do the same. There being no local agriculture 
of any consequence, and outside communication 
being uncertain or worse, the roving cattle were 
often the sole reliance for food. Even if farming 
had been seriously undertaken, that was a spe- 
cially discouraging season, for it is said that the 
year 1864 was so dry that in midsummer Little 
Pine Creek was so low that its water did not get 
down to Independence. 

Hill and his partners had raised a little corn 
in their mountain nook, and from it ground four 
sacks of meal, using coffee mills as machinery. 
It was agreed among them that the chance of get- 
ting other supplies was so slender that none of 
the meal should be sold. One day while Hill was 
alone in the camp, a man came from Bend City 
with the statement that his wife and children had 
nothing to eat and he did not know where to get 
food for them. Finally Hill said: **We agreed 
not to sell any of this meal, and I'm not going to 
do it. I'm going to the creek after some water, 
and if there happens to be a sack missing when I 
get back I won't do much hunting for it." His 
back was scarcely turned when he heard his visi- 
tor's wagon clattering away — and that evening 
Hill had to account for the meal. 

The men prospected from their camp. In the 


fall of 1864 they with Thomas May and C. McCor- 
mack discovered promising croppings. Shortly 
before, sympathizers with the South in- the Civil 
War had named the Alabama hills, near Lone 
Pine, in evidence of their gratification at the de- 
structive career of the Confederate privateer 
Alabama. Having the ending of that career by 
the Kearsarge fresh in mind, Hill and his part- 
ners, staunch Unionists, evened it up by calling 
their claim after the Union battleship. Other dis- 
coveries, including the Silver Sprout and Vir- 
ginia, were made on the slopes of the great peak 
which took the name of its first mine. Four tons 
of Kearsarge ore were sent to Ball's mill, near 
Ophir, Nevada, and netted $900 a ton. The 
phenomenal find attracted attention, and a con- 
trolling interest was sold to Charles Tozier, 
Almarin B. Paul, D. L. Bliss, Chas. Vangorder, 
I. L. Requa and John Gillig — all men of promi- 
nence then and later in coast financial and mining 
circles. Systematic development of the claims 
began in 1865, and by the end of that year quite 
a camp had arisen in the canyon at the western 
base of Kearsarge 's highest rise. 

Though isolated by storms and snows, the little 
camp passed safely through most of the winter. 
Came February, 1866, with storms worse than any 
that had preceded. Snow, whirled by gales, flew 
in clouds over all the foothills, and still more 
violently about Kearsarge Peak and the cabins 
nestling under its shoulder. New-fallen snow 
massed on the smooth surface of the earlier coat- 
ings of the winter, and began to shoot down the 


steep declivities. Kearsarge camp escaped dam- 
age until the afternoon of March 1st, when an 
avalanche buried the larger part of it, sweeping 
away a number of cabins and a life with them. 

Messengers went at once from the houses which 
were undamaged, making hard-won progress to 
Hill's, Camp Independence and Bend City. Every 
available man answered the summons. Hill, Kit- 
tleson and Cornell being the first to reach the 
scene. Occupants of destroyed cabins were ac- 
counted for until that occupied by mine foreman 
C. W. Mills and his wife was reached. The house 
had been crushed until no trace of it could be 
seen above the snow. After some digging a part 
of the rough stone wall was found. Hill was the 
first to grasp a bit of cloth, part of the dress en- 
closing the lifeless form of Mrs. Mills. Death 
had come with so little warning that her stiffened 
fingers still grasped a needle and the thread that 
she was about to place in it. Search for the body 
of Mills was about to be abandoned when a man 
known as ''Crazy" insisted on keeping up the 
hunt. Mills was finally found, barely alive, and 
with a broken leg. He recovered. E. Chaquette 
and wife occupied a house in the edge of the slide's, 
path. A dog's barking caused him to look out in 
time to see the avalanche coming. He caught up 
his wife and ran, and escaped so narrowly that 
the edge of the slide caught him and broke his leg. 

The population of Kearsarge moved that night 
to Hill's, and preparations for safer stopping 
places were made the next day. Development of 
the mine went on unchecked. To follow to a con- 


elusion the fortunes of the property : The owners 
incorporated, and in the summer of 1866 the com- 
pany built a ten-stamp mill at a cost of $40,000. 
The Silver Sprout mill, in the same vicinity, was 
already at work, and some Kearsarge ore was 
worked in it. Almarin B. Paul, later notable in 
coast mining affairs, was superintendent. The 
bullion produced was sent to Gold Hill, with an 
escort of soldiers. When it was found to net but 
121/2 cents an ounce Paul quit in disgust, and I. L. 
Requa became superintendent, with D. P. Pierce 
in direct charge. Pierce 's first working produced 
$60 per ton of ore. He had found the company 
$15,000 in debt when he took hold. After a 
month's smooth running, and when he began to 
be hopeful of success, creditors demanded that 
the bullion be turned over to them. Pierce, in- 
tending to use the proceeds to settle affairs in his 
own way, hid it. The matter got into the courts 
and a receivership was ordered. Finally the prop- 
erty passed to other owners, with Greorge Stead 
as manager. One of his first acts was to sell to 
the miners the ore that was then on the dump and 
at the mill. Some of this was sorted and sent to 
San Francisco, where it yielded over $700 a ton. 
Stead soon left, and his successor, D. P. Low, 
bought from the creditors what ore remained, pay- 
ing them $40 a ton. Some of it, specially selected, 
brought $700 a ton, and the average was $140 a 
ton. Another change in the scrambled affairs 
of the company occurred in 1869. The ore con- 
tinued to prove its value, fifty tons of it averaging 
$165, while the average of all that was worked 


from the mine was $60. Managements came and 
went for a number of years ; and for all the rich 
returns that were reported the old mine showed a 
balance on the wrong side of the ledger and was 
virtually abandoned by the company, passing to 
other hands. 





Musty records show that for a little time the 
Mormons had hopes of ruling the Great Basin as 
far westward as the summit of the Sierra Nevada 
Mountains, including the area now comprised in 
Inyo County. In March, 1849, they held a con- 
vention in Salt Lake City and (so far as they 
could) organized the '* State of Deseret." It in- 
cluded the present Utah, Nevada, Arizona, some 
of Colorado, some of Oregon, southern California 
as far north as Santa Monica, eastward and north- 
ward through half of Kern County through 
Tulare, to and across the summit of the Sierras, 
and along the latter range. This took in our 
present county as well as others further north 
and east of the mountains. This liberal claim of 
territory was denied, so far as California was con- 
cerned, by the Act admitting this State into the 
Union and ratification of its constitution prescrib- 
ing the boundaries as they now exist. That the 
Mormons meant business in their claim was indi- 
cated by an invitation to "the inhabitants of that 



portion of Upper California lying east of the 
Sierra Nevada Mountains" to participate in their 
convention. Needless to say that there was no 
response from any of the country south of Lake 
Tahoe, at least. What prompted the Californians 
to ordain their line southeasterly through the 
desert, including the utterly unknown region be- 
tween it and the Sierras, is but surmise. 

When people of western Utah held a mass 
meeting at Genoa, August 8, 1857, and prepared 
a petition asking Congress to organize a new Ter- 
ritory, separate from Utah, they looked on the 
Sierras as their natural boundary and suggested 
that the range be made the western boundary of 
their soon-to-be Nevada. This too was disre- 
garded in defining the lines established by the 
enabling act. 

The greater part of the present Inyo County 
was within the lines set in 1852 for Tulare, and 
that county exercised what little jurisdiction 
existed, south of Big Pine Creek. Owens Valley 
north of that stream had been allotted to Mono 
when, in 1861, it was created from ''those portions 
of Calaveras, Mariposa and Frezno counties lying 
east of the summit of the Sierra Nevado Moun- 

The unsuccessful effort to establish Coso 
County has been set forth. Owens Valley's 
scattered settlers memorialized the next Legisla- 
ture, and on February 17, 1866, Assemblyman J. 
E. Goodall of Mono and Tuolumne, introduced a 
bill to establish Inyo County. It passed without 
opposition. It prescribed the boundaries as had 


the Coso County bills, the Sierra summit on the 
west, State line on the east, the line until then 
bounding Tulare on the south, and on the north 
* ' down the middle of Big Pine Creek to its mouth, 
thence due east to the State line." Bend City 
had waned, and Independence was named in its 
stead as the seat of government until the citizens 
should decide otherwise. Kearsage was the 
largest precinct. Thomas J. Goodale, L. F. 
Cooper, W. A. Greenly, W. A. Baker and Lyman 
Tuttle were designated as commissioners to form 
precincts, name election officers, canvass returns, 
and so on. The date of election was set for 
March 3d. The creating act did not become law 
until March 22d, so the v/hole proceeding would 
have been null but for the provision, prompted by 
the experience in the Coso County effort, that in 
case the election was not held on the day set it 
might be called at any time within one year. 

Salaries of the officers of the proposed county 
and their official bonds were set as follows: 
County Judge, salary $1,000; District Attorney, 
$500 salary, $2,000 bond; Supervisors, each $300 
salary, $1,000 bond. The Sheriff, whose bond was 
$7,000; Clerk, bond $3,000; Treasurer, bond 
$10",000; Assessor, bond $1,000; Coroner, bond 
$2,000 ; and Surveyor, bond $2,000, were all to be 
paid according to a general State law enacted in 
1855. That the whole salary and fee schedule was 
on a modest scale is apparent from the statement 
that the Assessor's pay was $8 per day during 
the time he was actually employed in official duties, 
and the Superintendent's compensation was $150 
per year. 


Inyo was attached to the County of Mono for 
Assembly district purposes, and to that and a 
number of other counties in judicial district mat- 

One provision of the Act required the appoint- 
ment of two commissioners to confer with a like 
number from Tulare to arrange for the new county 
to take over its proportion of the Tulare county 
debt. No record has been found proving that this 
was ever done. 

The organization election was held some time in 
May — exact date not ascertainable from records. 
The officers elected were W. A. Greenly, Sheriff; 
Thomas Passmore, Clerk; John T. Ryan, As- 
sessor; John Lentell, Treasurer; Lyman Tuttle, 
Surveyor; B. D. Blaney, Coroner; Josiah Earl, 
Superintendent of Schools ; John R. Hughes, John 
R. Westerville (properly Westervelt) and C. D. 
Begole, Supervisors. John Beveridge was elected 
District Attorney but did not qualify, and Thomas 
P. Slade was appointed to that position. 0. L. 
Matthews had been appointed County Judge, by 
Governor Low. 

The Supervisors convened in Independence 
May 31st, and elected Hughes chairman. An 
election was ordered to be held June 16th, to 
choose township officers. The townships then 
established, the polling places designated and the 
small vote subsequently cast indicate the limita- 
tions of population of the new county. 

First township: Polling places, George 
Shedd's house at Fish Springs, Oro Fino Co. 'a 
office at Chrysopolis. Election officers J. S. Gill, 


E. M. Goodale and M. Stewart, and E. S. Whig- 
ham, Wm. Pedlar and Wm. Fleming respectively 
at the two points. In a total vote of 15, Fleming 
was elected Justice and Jack Shepherd and P. 
Green, Constables. 

The Second township had also two polling 
places: at Kearsarge, where votes were counted 
at M. J. Byrne's house and the election officers 
were M. Meagher, Samuel McGee and W. J. Lake ; 
and the Independence schoolhouse, with S. P. Mof- 
fatt, R. Hilton and J. G. Payne as officers. The 
whole vote of the townhip was 56, and the officers 
elected were J. J. Mankin and S. L. McGee Jus- 
tices and Wm. J. Lake and Wm. Wallace Con- 

In the Third township voters cast their ballots 
at Begole and Moore's house, with A. C. Stevens, 
Lyman Tuttle and Robert Law as election officers. 
Four of the twenty voters were put into official 
positions — R. M. Shuey and J. J. Moore as Jus- 
tices and N. F. Coburn and Peter Peerson as 

Appointment of George Shedd, J. G. Payne 
and Reuben Van Dyke as Road Overseers, com- 
pleted the government of Inyo County. 

While the salary set for the County Judge 
was small, his duties generally corresponded. His 
jurisdiction was between that of the Justice and 
the District Court. The latter corresponded to the 
present Superior Court, except that its judge had 
several counties in his district. Judge Matthews ' 
first case was a murder affair, that of E. H. Rogers 
for killing Theodore Bayer; the next two were 



of the kind termed ^' civil," and tlie fourth was a 
bankruptcy proceeding. He went through his term 
without having occasion to sentence a felon, the 
first commitment to San Quentin being made by 
Judge A. C. Hanson in 1869, when a grand lar- 
cenist "went below" for three years. 

Three school districts were established. One 
included all the county north of Independence; 
Independence and vicinity was the second, and the 
southernmost included all territory "south of the 
first section line south of J. W. SjTiimes." It 
would appear that the Supervisors looked on Mr. 
Symmes as a fixture. 

In the county vaults at Independence is a small 
morocco-covered book on whose few sheets of 
foolscap paper are the early records of the Super- 
visors. A critical reader would find it to be more 
incomplete in details than would now be sanc- 
tioned ; for example, public roads were designated 
as "running from Bend City to Kearsarge," 
"from Independence to the northern line of the 
county," "from Cerro Gordo to the summit of the 
Sierra Nevada Mountains." Those descriptions 
sufficed to be understood at the time, probably bet- 
ter than if they had been sprinkled with survey 
figures and "thences." 

In the winter of 1866-7 A. N. Bell built a flour- 
ing mill on Oak Creek. It was burned April 12, 
1870, and rebuilt soon afterward. 

When the election of 1867 came, Chrysopolis 
was wholly dead, and its voting precinct was 
abolished; Kearsarge was also dropped from the 
list. Cerro Gordo had started, and was recognized 


as a precinct. Some growth was indicated by a 
vote of 31 votes at Fish Springs, 115 at Inde- 
pendence, 53 at Lone Pine and 7 at Cerro Gordo. 
The county's vote was close politically,- Phelps, 
Eepublican, for Congress, receiving 102, Axtell, 
his Democratic opponent, 104. The vote on county 
officers was as follows : 

Sherife— Thos. May, 86; W. L. Moore, 123. 

Clerk— C. L. Jackson, 95 ; S. P. Moffatt, 113. 

Treasurer — Isaac Harris, 96 ; A. N. Bell, 108. 

Attorney— F. K. Miller, 103; Thos. P. Slade, 

Assessor — A. C. Stevens, 106; S. L. McGee, 

Surveyor — ^Lyman Tuttle, 107; Jack Dow, 98. 

Superintendent — C. M. Joslyn, 106; Josiah 
Earl, 98. 

Coroner — A. Farnsworth, 104; John A. Lank, 

Supervisor First District — J. W. McMurry, 
16; J. W. Westerville, 14. 

Judges were chosen at a separate election, at 
which A. C. Hanson defeated John Alexander, 102 
to 84 for County Judge, and the county gave 96 
votes for Theron Reed for District Judge to 93 for 
L. F. Cooper. 

Changes in the official corps were frequent dur- 
ing the first few years. It appears to have been 
considered courteous and proper for the Sheriff 
whose term was about to end to resign in order 
that his elected successor might acquire a little 
experience. Greenly resigned in November, 1867, 
and W. L. ('^Dad") Moore was appointed for the 


month between then and his own term by election. 
Two years later, he in turn resigned just before 
being succeeded by Elder. The District Attor- 
ney's office was subject to frequent changes. 
Beveridge failed to qualify, after the first elec- 
tion, and Slade was appointed. Slade was re- 
elected, and resigned. Pat Reddy was appointed, 
but did not qualify, and Paul W. Bennett was ap- 
pointed. Beveridge was again elected in 1869, 
and again failed to qualify, and Bennett was again 
appointed. Passmore tried the Clerkship for a 
year before he resigned and Moffatt was ap- 
pointed. Stevens served as Assessor for a year, 
quit, and was succeeded by L. A. Talcott. Farns- 
worth. Coroner, was hardly more than sworn in 
before he made way for John A. Lank. A brief 
experience in public office seems to have been suf- 
ficient for most of the old-timers ; it was no more 
than an even chance whether any one elected would 
serve out his term. 

In the election of 1869, the successful candi- 
dates were A. B. Elder, Sheriff; S. P. Moffatt, 
Clerk; Greo. W. Brady, Assessor; John Beveridge, 
Attorney; Isaac Harris, Treasurer; Lyman Tut- 
tle. Surveyor; J. W. Symmes, Superintendent of 
Schools; John A. Lank, Coroner; John Shedd and 
John Shepherd, Supervisors. 

A report of conditions in 1867 said that 2,000 
acres of land had been enclosed, of which half 
was cultivated. Barley was the principal crop. 
Independence had a population of 100. Fourteen 
quartz mills, ten of them steam driven, were oper- 
ating in the county, dropping 130 stamps and rep- 


resenting a $350,000 investment. The San Carlos 
Canal, to be 15 miles long and to cost $30,000, 
was proposed. Mention of the names of streams 
included Indian (George's), Sycamore (Alabama 
hills) and Little Pine creeks. It was estimated 
that there were 500 voters in the county. A road 
across Kearsage Pass was advocated. 

Nothing has been unearthed from county rec- 
ords to show who first served as teachers of the 
children of Inyo's huge districts. Designation of 
the schoolhouse at Independence as the polling 
place for the precinct in the election of 1866 is the 
only available proof of the existence of a school 
at that time. In that same year the first school 
was begun in northern Owens Valley, then part of 
Mono County. Only one white child was in the 
Bishop vicinity in the early months of the year, 
until in March Mr. and Mrs. Joel H. Smith and 
their six children arrived. The coming of other 
families led to Mrs. Smith opening a school, sup- 
ported by subscription. The first public school 
teacher north of Independence was Milton S. 

Among the Owensville inhabitants were Mr. 
and Mrs. Thomas Clark. Their sons came soon 
afterward; one of them was Rev. Andrew Clark, 
with his family. That pioneer minister and his 
brothers had served in the nation's army on Shi- 
loh's bloody field and elsewhere during the Civil 
War; and with the coming of peace they looked 
to the West. Sincere in convictions, Mr. Clark 
arranged for a church organization; and on Jan- 
uary 1, 1869, he and six others established the 


Baptist Church at Bishop Creek, as the settlement 
was then called. This was the first religious soci- 
ety in eastern California. The Methodists sent 
their first resident minister, Eev. E. H. Orne, to 
Independence as the central point of the ' ' Owens 
River Charge" two years later. These pioneer 
laborers in the cause of Christianity underwent 
virtually all the hardships of the * ' circuit riders ' ' 
of the mid-West, for they held services regularly 
all the way from Cerro Gordo to Benton, and in 
Deep Springs Valley. 

Temperance societies were first among frater- 
nities in this field. Existence of the Sons of 
Temperance at Owensville has been noted. That 
body's career was brief. Next in secret society 
pioneering was St. Orme's Lodge of Good Tem- 
plars, in Round Valley in 1869, soon reinforced 
by Oasis Lodge of the same order at Bishop. 

Placer gold was found on Big Pine Creek in 
1869. The first taken was a two-ounce nugget. 
Some placer mining was done there and some in 
the foothills west of Bishop during later years. 

During the season of 1869 the valley's esti- 
mated production of grain was 250 tons ; the lands 
in cultivation amounted to 5,000 acres. Flour 
for home consumption was being ground in home 
mills, and lumber cut in the nearby foothills was 
being used for buildings. Seven steam and two 
waterpower quartz mills were dropping 100 
stamps regularly, and four furnaces and twenty 
arrastras were helping to swell the mineral pro- 
duction of the region. 

A bill was introduced in the Legislature, 


passed, and approved by Governor Haiglit, March 
28, 1870, changing the northern boundary of Inyo 
County from Big Pine Creek to the line between 
townships five and six south of Mt. Diablo base 
line. In consideration of the transfer of territory 
from Mono to Inyo, provision was made for a 
payment of $12,000 to the former county. This 
was payable $3,000 annually, beginning January, 
1871. The last of the debt was not paid, however, 
until 1875. i 

The precise location of the boundary between 
the two counties was in dispute until a survey 
was made by J. G. Thompson, of' Mono, in 1876. 
Prior to that the neighbor county had laid claim 
to a large part of Round Valley, and finding out 
that the claim was not well founded caused mucJi 
resentment, particularly in Benton, then a camp 
of considerable importance and liveliness. 

One other slight change in boundary lines was 
made in 1872. The southern line, as inherited 
from Tulare, ran a little south of westerly from 
the Nevada line. The new code description 
changed it to a straight east-and-west line. This 
took a few miles of Sierras from us and in return 
gave us jurisdiction over a few more square miles 
of desert inferno at the far southeastern corner 
of the county. 

While these were the final changes, that fact 
is not due to lack of agitation. In 1864 the Neva- 
dans returned to their original idea of jurisdiction 
to the summit of the Sierras, and memorialized 
the California Legislature, asking that all the 
territory in the State east of that range be trans- 


ferred to Nevada. If the whole could not be pre- 
sented to the Silver State, the petitioners were 
anxious that Mono and Alpine, at least, should be. 
John R. Dudleston, then a prominent Monoite, 
urged that the line be run from Mt. Dana to Mt. 
McBride, ''the point where the State line crosses 
the White Mountains. ' ' The effort had no result. 
Passage by the Nevada Legislature in 1870 of a 
resolution asking for the proposed cession was as 
fruitless. The same proposal has been made since, 
and at times had some support in the area affected. 

In 1873 residents of the northern part of the 
county started a movement to have the county 
line re-established at Big Pine Creek, throwing 
the Bishop vicinity back into Mono. This arose 
from county dissensions. Three years went by 
before the subject was seriously renewed. It then 
grew to such proportions that the Supervisors 
took official notice of the matter. A protest 
against any change was adopted by the votes of 
Curtis, of Independence, and Meysan, of Lone 
Pine, for the protest and that of Garretson, of 
Bishop, against it. Next came Assemblyman 
Matthew Griswold, of Mono, with a bill to create 
Monache County, to include Olancha, the boom- 
ing camps of Darwin and Panamint and the desert 
region generally. This measure died on the files. 

A step forward for the county was made when 
in June, 1870, a newspaper, the Inyo Independent, 
was established at Independence by Chalfant & 
Parker. Among its items were statements that a 
petition was in circulation to secure a tri-weekly 
mail between Independence and Aurora. Mines 


at Fish Springs were paying well. That camp 
was headquarters for a tough crowd known as 
''Morgan Courtney's gang" — characters who 
later contributed to the criminal records of some 
of the Nevada towns. A wagon road between In- 
dependence and Visalia was being discussed. Inyo 
County's debt was $33,525.52. Bullion to the 
amount of 1,419,387 pounds had gone out from 
the Cerro Gordo furnaces. It gave pleasure to an- 
nounce that two regular mails a week had been 
arranged for, the government paying for one and 
the stage company putting on one of its own ac- 
cord. Henry G. Hanks had refused $30,000 for 
the Monte Diablo (later Mount Diablo) mine at 
Candelaria. Isaac Friedlander was making ap- 
plication for a patent on the Eclipse mine, south- 
east of Independence. 

The year 1871 was an election year, and devel- 
oped some of the hottest politics the county ever 
had. One of its features was a campaign journal 
largely devoted to personalities, named The Inyo 
Lancet, of which Thomas J. Goodale was the edi- 
tor-in-chief. The issues involved were of but tem- 
porary interest. Winners in the election were 
Cy Mulkey, Sheriff ; M. W. Hammarstrand, Clerk ; 
E. H. Van Decar, District Attorney; Henry M. 
Isaacs, Treasurer; J. F. Dillon, Assessor; John 
A. Lank, Coroner. Precincts in the territory ac- 
quired from Mono County cast votes as follows : 
Deep Spring Valley, 18 ; Round Valley, 40 ; Bishop 
Creek, 92. Older Inyo precincts cast 77 votes at 
Fish Springs, 111 at Independence, 95 at Lone 
Pine, 29 at Swansea, and 124 at Cerro Gordo. 





The most desperate prison break in the history 
of the West occurred at the Nevada penitentiary 
at Carson on the evening of Sunday, September 
17, 1871. Twenty-nine convicts, murderers, train 
robbers, horse thieves and others of like ilk, gained 
temporary liberty after killing one man and 
wounding half a dozen more. The bravery of the 
handful of prison guards, the action of a life 
prisoner in opposing the escape and fighting the 
convicts, and other details make an interesting 
story, but one outside the field of this history. 
Inyo's interest in the affair became direct when 
one of the gangs of desperadoes started with in- 
tent to recuperate in Owens and Fish Lake val- 
leys, as a preliminary to raiding a store at Silver 
Peak and escaping Avith their loot to seek refuge 
among the renegades, Indians and whites, who had 
established themselves in the far deserts. 

Billy Poor, a mail rider, was met by the con- 
victs, who murdered' him in cold blood, took his 
horse and clothing and dressed the corpse in dis- 
carded prison garb. When news of the occurrence 


TWO AFFAIES OF 1871 215 

reached Aurora, the boy's home, a posse set out 
ill pursuit of the escapers. The trail was found 
at Adobe Meadow^s, in southern Mono, and word 
was sent to Deputy Sheriff George Hightower, at 
Benton. Hightower and ten others from Benton 
trailed the fugitives into Long Valley. Eobert 
Morrison, who came to Owensville in 1863 and was 
at this time a Benton merchant, first sighted the 
men, in the evening of Friday, the 23d. The pur- 
suers went to the McGee place, in southern Long 
Valley, and spent the night, and the following 
morning went up the stream then known as Monte 
Diablo Creek, but now called Convict. 

As the posse neared the narrow at the eastern 
end of the deep cup in which Convict Lake is 
situated, a man was seen running down a hill a 
hundred yards ahead. The pursuers spurred up 
their horses and soon found themselves within 
forty feet of the convicts' camp. Three convicts 
took shelter behind a large pine tree on the south 
side of the stream, and began firing. Two of 
the horses of the posse were killed and two others 
wounded, and one of the posse was shot through 
the hand. Morrison dismounted, began crawling 
down the hillside to get nearer, and was shot in 
the side. The rest of the posse fled. Black, con- 
vict, went after Morrison, passing him until Mor- 
rison snapped his gun without its being dis- 
charged; Black then shot him through the head. 

The convicts w^ent up the canyon to where an 
Indian known as Mono Jim was keeping some of 
the citizens' horses. Thinking that the approach- 
ing men belonged to the posse, Jim announced that 


he had seen three men down the canyon. As he 
saw his mistake Black shot him. Jim returned 
the fire, wounding two of the horses the convicts 
had, and was then killed. Morrison's body re- 
mained where it fell until Alney McGee went from 
the house in the valley that evening and recovered 
it. The convicts had left. Morrison's body was 
taken to Benton and buried by the Masonic frater- 

'^ Convict" was thenceforward adopted as the 
name of the beautiful lake and stream near the 
scene. A mighty peak that towers over the lake 
bears the name of Mount Morrison. 

Word had been sent from Benton to Bishop, 
and a posse headed by John Crough and John 
Clarke left the latter place, after some delay due 
to failure of the messenger to deliver his letter. 
The trail was picked up in Round Valley, which 
the convicts had crossed. The latter had made 
their way into Pine Creek Canyon, and were so 
hard pressed that they abandoned one of their 
horses and lost another over a precipice. News 
that the men w^ere located, and the fact that they 
were armed with Henry rifles, superior to the 
weapons of the citizens, was taken to Indepen- 
dence by I. P. Yaney. The military post was at 
that time conmaanded by Major Harry C. Egbert, 
who afterward became General Egbert and lost 
his life as a brave soldier in the Philippines. 
Major Egbert selected five men to accompany him 
in the hunt, and also provided a supply of arms 
for any citizens who might wish to use them for 
the main purpose. They made the trip to Bishop 

TWO AFFAIRS OF 1871 217 

in seven liours, which was rapid traveling in those 

Convicts Morton and Black were captured in 
the sandhills five miles southeast of Round Val- 
ley, on Wednesday night, ten days after their 
escape. They were taken by J. L. C. Sherwin, 
Hubbard, Armstead, McLeod and two Indians. A 
few shots were exchanged before the fugitives 
threw up their hands in token of surrender. An 
Indian mistook the motion and fired, the shot 
striking Black in the temple and passing through 
his head, but strangely not killing him. The two 
were taken to Birchim's place in Round Valley. 
Black was able to talk, and laid the killing of 
Morrison on Roberts, a nineteen-year old boy. 
After hearing his story a posse resumed the hunt 
for Roberts in Pine Creek Canyon. 

This posse was eating lunch in the canyon on 
Friday when they observed a movement in a clump 
of wiUows within twenty yards of them. The 
place was surrounded and Roberts was ordered to 
come out and surrender. He did so, saying that 
if they intended to kill him he was ready if he 
could have a cup of coffee. He had been five and 
one-half days without food. When he confronted 
Black at Birchim's, the conduct of the older vil- 
lain satisfied all that he and not Roberts had slain 

The three prisoners were placed in a spring 
wagon Sunday evening, October 1st, and with 
a guard of horsemen started from Round Valley 
for Carson. Near Pinchower's store, where the 
northern road through West Bishop intersected 


the main drive of that vicinity, the escort and 
wagon were surrounded by a large body of armed 
citizens. ''Who is the captain of this guard?" 
was asked. "I am; turn to the left and go on." 
But the mob did not turn to the left nor was there 
any resistance. Morton, who sat with the driver, 
said: "Give me the reins and I'll drive after 
them ; I'm a pretty good driver myself. ' ' Roberts, 
who had been shot in the shoulder and in the foot 
in the encounter in Long Valley, was lying in 
the bottom of the wagon. He offered objections 
to going with the citizens, but without effect, and 
with Black driving to his own hanging, the wagon 
and its escort moved across the unfenced meadow 
to a vacant cabin a])out a mile northeasterly. On 
arrival there. Black and Roberts were carried into 
the house, both being wounded. Morton got down 
from the wagon with little assistance and went in 
with them. 

Lights were procured, and all present except 
the guards over the prisoners formed a jury. The 
convicts were questioned for two hours before 
votes were taken, separately on each prisoner. It 
was decreed that Black and Morton should be 
hanged at once. The vote on Roberts was equally 
divided for and against execution, and his life was 
saved by that fact. 

A scaffold was hastily set up at the end of the 
house, one end of its beam resting on the top of 
its low chimney, the other supported by a tripod 
of timbers. Morton hoard the preparations going 
on, and asked: "Black, are you ready to die?" 
"No, this is not the crowd that will hang us," 

TWO AFFAIRS OF 1871 219 

replied Black. "Yes, it is," said Morton; don't 
you hear them building the scaffold"?" Morton was 
asked if he wished to stand nearer the fire which 
had been made to modify the chill of- the late 
autumn night. "No, it isn't worth while warm- 
ing now," he answered; and turning to Roberts 
he said: "AVe are to swing, and I mean to have 
you swing with us if we can ; we want company. ' ' 
Black was carried out and lifted into a wagon 
which had been driven under the scaffold; after 
being raised to his feet he stood unsupported. 
Morton walked out and looked over the arrange- 
ments calmly, climbed into the wagon, and placed 
the noose over his own head. He asked that his 
hands be made fast so that he could not jump up 
and catch the rope. Black asked for water ; Mor- 
ton asked him what he wanted with water then. 
When asked if they had anything to say, Black 
said no. Morton said that it wasn't well for a 
man to be taken off without some religious cere- 
mony, and if there was a minister present he 
would like to have a prayer. Whether it seems 
strange or otherwise, there was a minister present 
by request. He spoke a few words, after which 
Morton said: "I am prepared to meet my God — 
but I don't know that there is any God." He 
shook hands with the men on the wagon, and then 
the minister prayed. Only his voice and a sigh 
from Black broke the stillness. As "Amen" was 
pronounced the wagon moved away. Black was 
a large and heavy man and died without a strug- 
gle. Morton, a very small man, sprang into the 
air as the wagon started, and did not move a 
muscle after his weight rested on the rope. 


Young Roberts was taken to the county jail 
at Independence, and after partial recovery from 
his wounds was returned to the Carson prison. 
Others among the escapes were believed to have 
come this way, and hard search was made for 
them through the mountains. That one named 
Charley Jones had come to Bishop Creek and had 
probably received some assistance was a general 
belief, but what became of him was never known 
unless to a select circle. Four of the escapes were 
captured on Walker River while they were feast- 
ing on baked coyote. Eighteen of the twenty- 
nine were captured or killed within two months of 
the prison break. 

One of the Government's parties of explora- 
tion sent into the Great Basin during the 1870 
decade was the Wheeler expedition. Its visit to 
Inyo in 1871 would be worthy of but passing note 
in this record but for two desert tragedies con- 
nected with it, to wit : the disappearance of guides 
Egan and Hahn. 

The expedition comprised sixty men, including 
soldiers, geologists, botanists, photographers, 
meteorologists, naturalists, and representatives of 
other branches of knowledge within the field of 
government investigation. With them as press 
correspondent came Fred W. Loring, a talented 
young Bostonian, whose promising career as a 
writer was cut short soon afterward by Arizona 
Apaches. The force was divided into two detach- 
ments, with Lieutenant George M. Wheeler as 
commander of one and Lieutenant D. A. Lyle as 
chief of the other. 

TWO AFFAIRS OF 1871 221 

The party left the Central Pacific Eailroad at 
Carlin, Nevada, and traversed the deserts south- 
westerly, arriving at Independence in July, 1871. 
Their investigations had proved very satisfac- 
tory; the country had been mapped, and each sci- 
entist had discoveries in his special line later 
incorporated in the reports that may be found in 
ofl&cial repositories. 

The detachments left Camp Independence July 
21st. Lyle was directed to cross the eastern range 
and to meet Wheeler at the head of the Amargosa. 
The guide for his party was C. F. R. Hahn, one of 
the county's pioneers, discoverer of some of the 
mines of Cerro Gordo, an accomplished linguist 
and educated man as well as miner and moun- 

According to the story later told by Lyle and 
John Koehler, naturalist with this detachment, 
Hahn left camp two days out from Owens Valley, 
to go ahead and prospect for water. He did not 
return, and no Inyo acquaintance ever saw him 
again. The detachment took no time to hunt for 
him. The belief was general in the county at 
that time that he had been basely deserted by the 
company — equivalent to murder, in that region in 
midsummer. It was established that Koehler had 
said that he would make Hahn find water or kill 
him. A. J. Close, a sometime resident of Inde- 
pendence, wrote from Colorado in 1875 that he 
had seen a man who claimed to have known Hahn 
in Arizona afterward. This man said that the 
missing man had been killed in that wild terri- 
tory, but that previous to his death he had told of 



leaving the Lyle party. He had been nnable to 
find water and was afraid to go back. He stripped 
the saddle from his mule, and left it, with other 
personal effects and papers to create the belief 
that he had perished, and had then ridden bare- 
back across the desert into Arizona. Hahn's be- 
longings, or some of them, were found in a canyon 
near the head of Death Valley a short time after- 
ward. A pair of field glasses, believed to have 
been Hahn's, were found at another place, by an 
Indian. They came into P. A. Chalf ant's posses- 
sion, and were destroyed in the burning of his 
home many years later. They had special value 
because of their associations, and further because 
of a curious phenomenon in their appearance. The 
cement uniting the prisms of the object lenses had 
been formed into miniature representations of 
sage bushes, though whether this was actually a 
picturing of those within the lenses' range or 
merely a form taken by the cement under action 
of the excessive heat of the desert was only 
surmise. Notwithstanding, the serviceability of 
the glasses was unimpaired. 

The Wheeler detachment took a more southerly 
route on leaving Independence. Its guide was 
William Egan, a scholarly gentleman well known 
in many parts of the intermountain region. Being 
familiar with the Amargosa region, he consented 
to pilot the party that far. He disappeared even 
more completely than did Hahn, for not even a 
rumor of his having been seen alive or dead after 
leaving the expedition ever reached his friends. 
Wheeler accounted for him by saying that he had 

TWO AFFAIES OF 1871 223 

left camp for Rose Springs, and had gone over 
Towne's Pass into Death. Valley. Wheeler said 
that after waiting a day for him, the party left 
provisions and a note at Rose Springs and went 
on. Loring, w^riting for Appleton's Journal, then 
one of the country's leading magazines, said that 
two men had gone into the Telescope mountains, 
with Egan as guide. "He did not come back- 
he never will come back," wrote Loring. Thp 
two accounts do not agree as to the point of 
Egan's departure. 

Evidence by members of the party showed that 
there had been friction between the guides and 
the commanders in each instance. Wheeler and 
Lyle were both characterized as brutal and over- 
bearing, acting on the belief that their military 
commissions were ample warrant for any attitude 
they chose to take toward civilians in their em- 

A blacksmith who accompanied the expedition 
from Eureka, Nevada, said no inquiries were ever 
made in the camp concerning Egan's whereabouts. 
His pack animal and prospecting outfit were taken 
and used as government property. Lyle gave this 
blacksmith to understand that Hahn had deserted, 
and that if time permitted he would return and 
shoot him. 

Putting the best possible construction on 
known circumstances, the two guides were virtu- 
ally abandoned in the desert. Harsh inferences 
were corroborated by authenticated incidents of 
the journey. Near Belmont, Nevada, one of the 
outfit's mules strayed. Men hunting the animal 


came upon a boy herding cattle. He professed to 
know nothing of the mule, but was brought into 
camp. Wheeler had him tied up by the thumbs in 
an effort to extort knowledge that the boy did not 
have. Again, as Ash Meadows, Wheeler tried to 
get an Indian to take a note to his brother at a 
point 70 miles distant. The Indian asked for 
five dollars, a shirt and a pair of pants as pay. 
This was refused and he left camp. The next 
morning he returned, with four others. All were 
seized and tied up. One broke away, started to 
run, and was shot and killed. The rest of them 
set out, under guard, with the note; the corporal 
reported that they had run away, with shots flying 
after them. In this dilemma Wheeler concluded 
to go himself, with an orderly. He was sur- 
rounded, somewhere during his trip, by a dozen 
Indians, and would have been killed had it not 
been for the interposition of a Salt Lake Indian 
with the crowd. 

The comparative prominence of the missing 
guides, and the curt information given to those 
who would have made the hunt the military men 
failed to make, caused much adverse comment and 
feeling in Owens Valley. That two men familiar 
with the country should disappear while the expe- 
ditions they guided went through without marked 
difficulty, was a singular fact. The abandonment 
of the men, the lack of effort to locate them, and 
the indifference of the commanders to any in- 
quiries, added to a desert mystery that, at least 
in the case of Egan, was never solved in any way 




The great earthquake of March 26, 1872, 
stands alone in its awe-inspiring magnitude as an 
item of Inyo County history. Other earthquakes 
have been known here, but beside them it was as a 
cyclone to a summer breeze. It was Mother Earth's 
time for readjustment somewhere in the region — 
such an occurrence as different parts of the New 
World and the Old have had, as at New Madrid, 
Charleston, San Francisco, and in many foreign 
lands. That the seismic disturbance originated 
somewhere near Owens Valley was evident; it 
appears to have been an affair in which we had 
original and proprietary interest, though the ef- 
fects were felt nearly simultaneously from Mex- 
ico to British Columbia and eastward to Utah. 

The shake came at 2:30 on the morning of 
March 26th. Premonitory symptoms, if such they 
were, had appeared during many months. A shock 
of some severity was reported at Lone Pine March 
17th. The main event came unheralded save by a 
mighty rumble. The shock was reported by Camp 
Independence observers to have lasted three 



minutes; its worst effects occurred in the first 
minute. Next in severity, but still much milder, 
was one at 6:30 the same morning. The Camp 
Independence record noted 200 shocks of tremors 
from the hour of the big shake up to 5 :00 the fol- 
lowing afternoon. In its issue of April 6, 1872, the 
Inyo Independent observed that the earth was 
quieting down, as shocks were from twelve to 
twenty hours apart. 

One can read, in publications of the time, many 
tales of the earthquake, nearly all written by non- 
residents with able imaginations and a belief that 
the remoteness of the region would permit any 
sort of story to be accepted. The facts were star- 
tling enough, without gratuitous additions. 

Fissures opened at different points, generally 
but not in all cases paralleling the valley axis. In 
a few instances there were changes in the level of 
the ground bordering such breaks. The chief of 
these was at Lone Pine, where a twelve-mile crack 
opened. Whether the land on the east was lowered 
or that on the west was raised no scientist ever 
took the trouble to announce, but a difference of 
from four to twelve feet was made. Also, the 
land on the east side was moved northward, or 
that on the west was moved southward, several 
feet, as broken fences across the fissure proved. 
Another large fissure appeared near Big Pine. 

Twenty-four persons were killed at Lone Pine, 
and about the same number escaped with severe 
or minor injuries. One person was killed and one 
injured at Eclipse, on the river southeast of Inde- 
pendence; one killed at Camp Independence, and 


several injured; one hurt at Bishop. The prop- 
erty loss was never accurately determined, but was 
estimated at from $150,000 to $200,000. • 

Every instance of personal harm was due to 
the character of buildings which had until then 
been in use. The population of Lone Pine was 
largely composed of Mexicans, who had exercised 
their preference for sun-dried bricks, or adobes, 
as building material. While such construction was 
more in use there than in other parts of the val- 
ley, the scarcity and high cost of lumber helped 
in making the use of adobes quite general in the 
small settlements. Three-fourths of Lone Pine's 
buildings were thus made, and about sixty of them 
toppled down in the shake like piles of children's 
blocks. The buildings at Eclipse, all adobe, and 
some others elsewhere shared the same fate. The 
courthouse at Independence was of burned bricks, 
and collapsed. Only one frame building in the 
valley was leveled, and that was an unsubstantial 
and cheap shed. Many, however, were racked, 
and all plastering was shattered. Adobes were 
promptly stricken from the list of favored build- 
ing materials; probably there was never a more 
instantaneous and general change of opinion re- 
garding construction methods. 

Some of the curiosities of the earthquake are 
worth noting. At George's Creek water burst 
from the ground up into a floorless cabin, in such 
volume as to flood out the occupants if they had 
awaited further notice to vacate. Not far off, a 
horse's hoof protruding from the ground, where a 
crack had opened and then closed, gave reasonable 


inference as to where the rest of the animal might 
be found. Similarly, at Fish Springs a crack 
swallowed an ox, only his tail being left out in the 
air as a card indicating that he had not strayed. 
Near by, another ox was dead on the ground, with 
not a sign of injury. Of two adobe huts a mile 
apart, one cruml3led, the other was not damaged 
at all. 

In an Independence law office, two adjoining 
rooms contained shelves of books on the north and 
south walls. In one, the north shelves were com- 
pletely emptied, every book being thrown to the 
floor, while those on the opposite shelves remained 
undisturbed. In the adjoining room, next west, 
exactly the reverse occurred; the south shelves 
were emptied while the ones on the north stood 
as usual. 

At Bishop, a stone chimney fell across a bed 
which two young ladies would have been occupying 
had they not been away at a dance at the time. 

The course of Owens River was changed east 
of Independence, and the site of Bend City was 
left neighboring an empty ravine instead of the 
river bank. 

Dust hung over the Sierras for two days after 
the earthquake, while the White Mountains were 
obscured by haze and dust for a shorter period. 
The rolling of stones and the sparks struck in 
their descents were vividly described by beholders. 

In spite of widespread interest and veritable 
volumes of printed matter, opportunity for scien- 
tific investigation was neglected. Prof. J. D. 
Whitney and Clarence King, two of the most noted 


scientists of the West, made flying trips into the 
valley, tarrying but briefly. Professor Whitney 
afterward published two articles on the Inyo 
earthquake, one of which excited local derision be- 
cause of its inaccuracy as to facts. The other 
was a general dissertation on the subject of earth- 
quakes, and probably entitled to more serious 
consideration than his hastily gathered Owens 
Valley notes. 

He mentions a tradition of the Piutes that a 
similar shake had occurred eighty years earlier — 
that is, about 1790. He concluded that an earth- 
quake is a passage of an elastic wave of motion 
through a portion of the crust of the earth, and 
that unusual seismic manifestations in one part 
of the earth are likely to be followed by like dis- 
turbances elsewhere. He figured that the Inyo 
earthquake was one of a chain, extending through 
the winter and spring of that year. He enumer- 
ated a long list of shocks, during the months of 
January, February, March and April, in Asia, 
Australia, Europe, Minnesota, Illinois, Germany, 
Japan, Mexico, Kentucky, Africa, Ireland, and the 
Philippine Islands. Our little agitation was of 
small consequence — except to ourselves — by com- 
parison with the leveling of a Persian city and 
death of 30,000 of its inhabitants that January; 
destruction of cities near the Caucasus Mountains 
and in Japan ; the killing of a thousand or fifteen 
hundred persons at historic Antioch ; the greatest 
eruption of Vesuvius since 1632, and other notable 
events of that season. 

Whitney concluded that the focus of the Owens 


Valley earthquake was somewhere beneath the 
Sierras, in the belt between Owens Lake and In- 
dependence, at a depth of at least fifty miles, and 
extending for probably 100 miles in length. The 
wave motion traveled, he decided, at a velocity 
of probably thirty-five miles a minnte. Its great- 
est velocity effects were manifested where changes 
in geological formations were f onnd ; for instance, 
fissures usually occurred where the sandy slope 
joined alluvial soil, dry abutting against wet mate- 
rial. At such points the rate of motion is changed 
and a disturbance ensues. He decided that the 
force was about uniform from Olancha to Big 
Pine. In all cases observers said that the shock 
seemed to come from the Sierran region men- 
tioned. At Lone Pine it came from the west; 
farther north, from the southwest. 

Professor Whitney explained further that the 
earth's crust is, or rather must be, in a condition 
of tension in places, of compression in others. 
Sooner or later the material gives way, a fissure 
forms, and a powerful impulse is communicated to 
the mass above. This starts the wave of action 
which when it reaches the surface we know as 
an earthquake. 

He was undecided as to attributing the wide- 
spread disturbances of March 26th to the Inyo 
earthquake. A terrific volcanic eruption occurred 
in Mexico that day, which he believed might he 
a wholly separate and detached occurrence. 

Rebuilding began promptly. The national 
Government set aside $30,000 for reconstructing 
Camp Independence; most of it was used in put- 


ting up substantial frame buildings. The county 
was still speedier in its action. The destroyed 
courthouse, a two-story brick, accepted February 
1, 1869, had cost $9,832. It had never been satis- 
factory, and a providential bill had passed the 
Legislature only two weeks before the earthquake 
authorizing the county to issue $40,000 bonds for 
building a new courthouse and new bridges across 
the river. The latter were to be at Lone Pine, 
Bend City, and at either Big Pine or Bishop as the 
Supervisors might decide. So when the earth- 
quake wrecked the old building more expeditiously 
than a contractor would have done, no time was 
lost in moving for its replacement. The bonds 
were issued, and though bearing 10 per cent in- 
terest they were sold for 80 cents on the dollar, 
besides w^hich the county paid something over 
$2,000 for the expense of making the sale ; conse- 
quently the $40,000 issue put a little less than 
$30,000 into the treasury. "The remains of the 
late courthouse," as the advertisement put it, were 
offered for sale, and brought $120. Bids for a 
new building were not opened until September, 
when a contract was let to E. Chaquette to erect 
the building for $15,900. Work was under way 
when an epidemic of the horse disease known as 
the epizootic swept the country. Animals died by 
hundreds, and teaming systems were practically 
put out of business. Most of the lumber in the new 
building was being ''imported," and Chaquette 
was unavoidably given an extension of time on his 
contract. The building was accepted July 3, 1873, 
and on the following day was used for the exer- 


cises of the greatest celebration the county had 
ever had. The structure was a far better building 
than the one which afterward replaced it, as well 
as an improvement on its predecessor. 

Business buildings and residences were also 
begun, and in most cases were completed with 
rather more expedition than attended the county's 
reconstructive work. 





Inyo County was, in those days, essentially and 
thoroughly a frontier of ''the old West." Many 
substantial and law-respecting citizens had come, 
laying the foundation for the later communities; 
but at that period mitamed tendencies had the up- 
per hand in many respects. The forms of law 
were available, but were not appreciated by a 
large percentage of the inhabitants. Villains from 
other parts found in this out-of-the-way region a 
comparatively safe refuge, or tarried here on their 
way to the still more inaccessible isolation of the 
southern Nevada deserts. To the new-sprung 
mining camps came hard characters from every- 
where, and Colt and Bowie were the authorities 
usually called in when disputes arose. Eailroads 
and telegraphs were hundreds of miles distant. 
To reach any place where conditions were mate- 
rially different involved an arduous journey. San 
Francisco was distant three days and three nights 
of staging — and $60 fare. Arrival of papers four 
days old from Los Angeles was mentioned by the 



local paper as a notable event, and as being faster 
service than the mails. Going to any outside point 
was as costly, and more inconvenient, than is a 
journey half way across the continent at the pres- 
ent time. And moreover, hard as conditions were 
from a moral standpoint, they were not greatly 
worse than those generally prevalent west of the 
Rockies at that time. 

Judge Hannah thus charged one of his grand 
juries : 

"Crime has been exceedingly prevalent, and seems to have 
run rampant in certain sections of the county, especially at 

Cerro Gordo So far as I am informed the guilty 

parties have never been brought to justice to answer for their 

misdeeds It is your duty that you exhaust, if necessary, 

every means known to the law to protect the peaceful citizen 
from these lawless ruffians." 

In another charge, to one of the first grand 
juries called by Judge Hannah, he called attention 
to the commission of eighty serious and unpun- 
ished crimes in the few years the county had then 
been in existence. This was before the notable 
prominence of Cerro Gordo, with its still bloodier 
record. Crimes then became of almost weekly 
frequency, largely committed "up on the hill" — 
that is, Cerro Gordo. It is safe to say that be- 
tween the county's organization and the advent 
of the railroad, in the early '80 's, more men had 
been killed or wounded in self-defense or in cold 
blood than the total of white victims of the Indian 

Conmients in the Inyo Independent reflected a 
prevalent sentiment when, after a Cerro Gordo 


affair in which two toughs were wounded and 
sent to the county hospital, it remarked : 

"In those rows where the principals are killed outright we 
have a sort of morbid satisfaction in so reporting it;"but when 
they are only maimed and become expensive public charges 
it is a bad go. But frequently innocent parties are the vic- 
tims; and if there is law to do it these affrays should be 
stopped on that account, if no other." 

Tribal orgies among the Indians supplied with 
liquor by unprincipled whites were frequent, and 
a slit Piute throat was not an unusual result. Once 
in a while the initial crime would bring its own 
punishment, as when a keeper of a portable dive 
at George 's Creek, sharing a grand drunk with his 
Indian customers, took occasion to shoot two of 
them and was himself neatly and properly slain. 

It is not to be supposed that the machinery of 
the law was wholly idle. Officers made arrests for 
crimes, but where there was not real ground of 
defense others of the criminal's own stripe sup- 
plied evidence that a jury, however conscientious, 
had to accept as justification. The public prose- 
cutor of those days was usually a very weak 
sister ; and the defender of most of the major cases 
was Pat Reddy, a specialist in criminal defense, 
an expert in jury selection, and a lawyer of ability. 
It was said that he was the means of freeing more 
than one hundred men charged with murder in this 
county. Mono County, and adjacent counties in 

In probably three cases out of four, the hard 
cases operated on each other, and society was 
somewhat improved by the net result. 


Such serious offenses as murder came within 
the jurisdiction of the District Court, at that time 
presided over by Theron Y. Reed, a man whose 
mettle fitted the times. Serving his circuit, Kern, 
Inyo, Mono and Alpine counties, involved a de- 
gree of personal hardship. To reach his different 
county seats. Judge Eeed journeyed from Havilah 
to Millerton (now forgotten), thence via Sacra- 
mento and Sonora across the Sierras to Bridge- 
port and Markleeville, thence to Independence via 
Aurora and Benton, on horseback or by the some- 
times but weekly stages. 

An illustrative occurrence was stated to the 
writer by Paul W. Bennett, an attorney in Inde- 
pendence when the incident happened. Judge 
Reed was holding court at Independence when a 
man from Fish Springs was brought in, whether 
for rebellion against the Morgan Courtney gang 
of roughs then dominating that neighborhood or 
for some other reason there is no evidence. Pat 
Reddy, then new in his career, Lucius Cooper and 
Thomas Slade were the attorneys. Each was there 
to win his case. Abuse and disputing ruled the 
court the first day, despite Judge Reed's admoni- 
tions and threats of fines. When court opened the 
next morning Judge Reed entered the room with 
a double-barreled shotgun on his arm. He cocked 
both barrels of the gun and set it by his chair, and 
remarked: ''Gentlemen, there will be order in 
this court today." Mr. Bennett, who witnessed 
the occurrence, said that the judge's prediction 
was correct ; there was order. 

In another court in the county, an attorney 


persisted in undertaking to protest a ruling, until 
the judge's patience tired and he roared ''Sit 
down or I'll knock you down!" There was no 
dullness or lack of variety in court sessions those 

As a help in picturing conditions, we turn to 
the local columns of the Inyo Independent. All 
the following items are from the same issue of 
that paper. Other issues might show more or less 
notes of similar nature ; this one was not selected, 
but was the first one examined in this particular 
respect. This issue is dated July 13, 1872, and 
mentions these occurrences : 

A despei-ado named White appeared at Benton on the 4th 
with a horse to put in the races. A bystander recognized 
the horse as one stolen from him, whereupon White drew a 
pistol and would have done some murdering but for inter- 
ference He was arrested and taken to Bridgeport on 

three charges of horse stealing. As he didn't actually murder 
anybody his prospect of spending a few summers at the sea- 
Bide is exceedingly flattering. 

"At the seaside" means San Quentin prison. 
Note the inference, which we italicize, that he 
would probably have escaped punishment if his 
offense had been so petty as murder, instead of 
horse stealing. Again: 

Some six-shooters got on a drunk in Lida Valley on the 
night of the 4th, and one of them going off accidentally in- 
flicted a slight wound in Guadalupe Oehar's arm. On the 
same day Len Martin gave some sheep-herder's delight to two 
men he met; a free fight ensued, from which Martin, by the 
free use of a pick-handle, came off first best. A great future 
for Lida is now considered certain. 

Justice Pearson's court at Lone Pine is examining George 



Lee for shooting George Bireham, because of difficulties grow- 
ing out of alleged horse-stealing on the part of Lee. 

Pearce, arrested on a charge of horse-stealing, was dis- 
charged from custody. After an interesting interview the 
accuser was willing to swear that Pearce wasn't much of a 
horse-thief after all. 

R. Van Dyke lost forty tons of hay near Lone Pine, 
through the cussedness of a Piute who attempted to test its 
dryness with a match. 

This contribution is from another issue of the 
same paper: 

Cerro Gordo is a prolific source of the "man for break- 
fast" order of items Four Americans, including Johnny 

Stewart, who recently had occasion to shoot a Mexican in 
Lone Pine (and who was later hanged at Columbus, Nevada), 
undertook to run the "Waterfall" place. A Mexican stepped 
up and put a pistol almost in contact with Walker's head, 
and fired, but the bullet did not kill him. The firing became 
general, during which Clark got a dose of lead that knocked 
him hors du combat. Dui-ing the same night, at another dance 
house, a Mexican received a shot through the abdomen. The 
night following the Waterfall affray another shooting match 
took place between two Mexicans, in which one of them got 
a ball through his leg and the other through his arm. If such 
poor shooting as this is unfortunately to be the nale, active 
measures will have to be adopted by citizens who have a 
morbid desire to attend funerals Last week two Mexi- 
cans from Cerro Gordo lifted three horses and riding gear 

from Lone Pine, and are missing, despite a warrant 

At Lida on the night of the 6th Abram Altamarino received a 
severe knife wound. 

But the greatest reign of terror experienced 
by the county's people, after the close of the In- 
dian war, was not caused by the miscellaneous 
roughs and their festive handling of weapons. It 
was during the months that the bandit Vasquez 


and his gang ruled the southern stage road and 
the highways of southern Inyo, early in 1874, with 
a return engagement in the spring of 1875. Most 
of the Vasquez deviltry was committed in other 
fields than Inyo, but during his sojourn on the 
eastern slope of the Sierras there were few weeks 
without their tales of the operations of the ''road 

Tiburcio Vasquez was second only to Joaquin 
Murietta in notoriety as a California bandit. He 
was prominent in highwayman circles from 1852 
to 1875. His own story was that he was hounded 
by Americans until at the age of seventeen he de- 
cided to become a robber. He began his career near 
Salinas, Cal., and soon gathered a band of subor- 
dinates of his own lawless kind. In 1857 he was 
caught and was in San Quentin penitentiary until 
his discharge in 1863. He then took up with other 
noted bandits of the time, and the combination did 
a flourishing business until the killing of one of 
his partners, Soto, some years later. Vasquez be- 
came the leader of his own gang of cutthroats 
about 1871, and for three years they committed 
crime after crime. Their escape from capture 
was probably due in part to the existence of con- 
federates in different places, as well as to the 
readiness with which the outlaws picked up the 
best horseflesh whenever it was needed. After 
robbing a store and killing two men at Tres Pinos, 
Monterey County, they moved into Fresno County, 
then as thinly populated as Owens Valley. One 
daring crime after another caused the Legislature 
to authorize Governor Booth to spend $15,000 in 


capturing or exterminating the gang. On Novem- 
ber 12tii Vasquez and his men went to the little 
town of Kingston, and after tying up thirty-five 
men robbed the place to their hearts' content. 
They were "hotly pursued," and as usual es- 
caped. The gang appears to have scattered for a 
short time, but in February Vasquez called his 
forces together in Tejon Canyon, twenty men ap- 
pearing. Inyo County and the highway leading 
to it were selected as promising abundant loot, 
and operations on this slope began two weeks 
later. Their first appearance in the new field was 
at Coyote Holes, on the southern stage road, Feb- 
ruary 25, 1874. 

A traveler, who had stayed all night at the 
station, set out on foot to find a stray horse. A 
mile from the station he met two Mexicans, one 
of whom said he was Vasquez. They made the 
luckless traveler return to the station with them, 
and on the way met Raymond, the station keeper. 
Both men were tied up and left on a hillside. The 
Mexicans went on toward the house, announcing 
their coming by firing fifteen shots through its 
walls. Six persons were inside, but had no 
weapons except a Henry rifle with no cartridges 
and an unloaded shotgun, and did not think it 
wise to argue about the irregularity of the pro- 
ceedings. Under orders, they filed out, Vasquez 
finding it necessary to stimulate the lagging steps 
of a man known (as probably some thousands 
have been) as '*Tex." All were escorted off to 
one side and made to sit down. Tex had imbibed 
too freely to display first-class judgment and 


proved refractory, but became more docile after 
Vasquez sent a rifle bullet through his thigh. 
With this exception, the prisoners were treated 
with obsequious politeness. The group was put on 
parole to keep their places. Being persons of 
honor, they kept their promises — the more readily 
perhaps because Vasquez promised that he would 
shoot the first one who arose, and they had no 
reason to disbelieve him. 

The robbers returned to the station and waited 
two hours for the arrival of the stage from the 
south. It carried three passengers, including M. 
W. Belshaw, the Cerro Gordo owner and financier. 
Under the persuasion of two rifles and four re- 
volvers, these passengers took seats with the other 
captives, and contributed to the Vasquez fund. 
Belshaw gave up a pair of new boots, as well as 
his money. One of the passengers demurred at 
giving up a pair of gloves he had. Vasquez of- 
fered him two dollars for them, and the passenger, 
being a man of business, closed the deal. The 
driver smuggled $40 into the sand, then smashed 
open Wells, Fargo & Company's express box at 
the direction of the bandits. Two of the Cerro 
Gordo freight teams came to Coyote Holes about 
this time, and the drivers were relieved of such 
possessions as the robbers wanted, and sent to join 
the little colony on the hillside. The bandits then 
took six of the stage horses and rode off. 

Vasquez and eight or nine of his gang next 
went to the Mexican camp of Coso, but did nothing 
criminal there. The leader, himself, left to look 
after his southern California interests, leaving the 


Inyo field in tlie capable hands of Chavez, one of 
his lieutenants. A reward of $3,000 was at that 
time being offered for Chavez, who had made his 
chief reputation in Monterey County. 

Chavez began business in Inyo in March, 1875, 
with eight fellow bandits. His first theft was 
eleven saddle horses. During the next few months 
no road in the region southeast of Owens Lake 
was safe for travel, and hold-ups were of very fre- 
quent occurrence. No murders were committed 
by that crew, though in one instance Barton Mc- 
Gee, of Indian war record, who understood 
Spanish, listened to an argument as whether he 
should be allowed to live. His captors, an old 
man and a young one, both Mexicans, asked him 
if he would forget the whole affair if they released 
him. His reply was that he would kill both when 
he got a chance. Nevertheless they feared to sum- 
marily execute him. During the night he nearly 
loosened his bonds and the bandits were within a 
few minutes of their fate when they saw what he 
was doing and tied him afresh. They had made 
a bad catch, and after twenty-eight hours of cap- 
tivity they put him, barefooted and hatless, on a 
bronco mule, without saddle or bridle, and turned 
him loose. Guiding the animal by slapping its 
head with his hands he made his way to Coso. 
There he outfitted anew, and promptly went to the 
scene of his misadventure. The tracks were fresh 
and easily followed. When McGee next appeared 
in camp he rode his own horse, which the rob- 
bers had taken. When asked if he had seen the 
men he merely said: "Well, I got my horse." 


The Mexicans may have been the ones in an affair 
in which an inquest was held, there being one 
dead man and another having run away. The 
Coroner's jury reported only that the dead man 
had been ''buried according to Hoyle." 

The bandits became such a scourge on the 
roads that Capt. MacGrowan took a detachment of 
soldiers from Camp Independence and made a 
25-day pursuit of them, without result. Capt. 
Carr, with Company I, First Cavalry, was also 
in the field, equally fruitlessly. 

Vasquez confined his operations thereafter to 
Los Angeles County. One of his exploits there 
was to hold up an Italian rancher for $800 ran- 
som. Once he chanced to meet a deputy Assessor 
named Mike Madigan, to whom he said: *'Senor 
Miguel, here is $2 for my poll tax. Let it not be 
said that Vasquez refuses to support a government 
which values him so highly as to offer $15,000 for 
his head." 

He was finally captured through the connivance 
of one of his men whose wife he had won. Eight 
officers, being informed that he was then at a 
house about ten miles west of Los Angeles, took 
advantage of an opportunity to conceal themselves 
in the box of a wagon that was being driven to the 
house. The officers jumped out, and Vasquez, see- 
ing them, went through a narrow window and ran 
for his horse. Bullets flew around him so thickly 
that he saw it was hopeless, and gave up. Chaves 
had also been in the house, but was not then cap- 
tured. Vasquez was taken to San Jose, tried for 
murder, and hanged March 19, 1875. Before his 


execution lie said that he had never killed any one. 
He said that at Coyote Holes he tied up twenty 
men; that one shot at and wounded him, but was 
not punished by being killed as he might have 

With the leader gone, the capture or killing oi 
the rest of the gang was an easier matter. Chavez 
was killed by a citizen of Monterey County, and a 
reward which had grown to $5,000 was collected 
for him. The breaking up of the outlaw band was 
a relief to all the southern part of the State, and 
was particularly welcome in southern Inyo. 

Minor organizations of criminals did some 
business in the county at one time or another, but 
all finally came to grief. One of these was a band 
of horsethieves, operating from Nevada through 
this county and far southward. At another time, 
this in 1875, three men, one aged twenty-five, the 
others each under twenty, and a girl about the 
latter age, came over the Sierras to go adventur- 
ing as bandits in this apparently promising field. 
Their most important enterprise was in "sticking 
up" T. J. Graves and family at their little moun- 
tain ranch on the south fork of Oak Creek, west- 
erly from Independence. Graves and his wife 
and little son were tied up for several hours, while 
the robbers cooked supper and pillaged their 
meagerly supplied home. Late that night the 
gang struck out across the mountains with all 
they chose to take from the place. Graves, bare- 
footed because the bandits had taken his boots, 
got loose and made his way into Independence. 
The next morning a posse took the trail, and after 


traveling thirty miles into the Sierras found a bit 
of paper bearing Mrs. Graves's name on an ad- 
dress label. With this assurance, the posse kept 
on. The next morning Tom Hill (heretofore men- 
tioned in this record) happened onto the bandit 
camp, while the inmates were at breakfast. He 
pretended to be diligently hunting grouse until 
out of sight of the camp. The rest of the posse 
was notified, and the crowd was captured without 
resistance. The men in due time went to the peni- 
tentiary, and the woman was discharged by over- 
gallant officers. 

That was a crime-stained decade in the history 
of Inyo County. This sketchy outline of it may 
fittingly conclude, without enumerating other 
sinister occurrences, with mention of the death of 
two officers who lost their lives in the discharge 
of their official duty. These men, Thomas Pass- 
more and William L. Moore, had been among the 
earliest residents of the valley; had taken part 
in the Indian war, and each was a citizen held in 
high esteem. 

Passmore was elected Sheriff in 1875, and 
again in 1877. He was in Lone Pine on the night 
of February 12, 1878. That night an Indian was 
murdered by a hardened criminal named Palacio. 
The murderer took refuge in a deadfall run by 
Frank Dabeeny, another individual of the same 
stripe, and refused to surrender to local citizens. 
Passmore, being somewhat ill, had gone to bed 
early in the evening. He was called, and went 
to the place and demanded admission. The door 
did not open, the demand was repeated, and Pass- 


more attempted to force an entrance. Shots were 
fired inside of the house; the Sheriff exclaimed 
''Boys, I'm shot!" handed his pistol to a by- 
stander, and fell dead. 

Wild excitement ensued. A fusillade of lead 
riddled the building. As those within seemed 
disposed to hold the fort, its destruction by either 
fire or dynamite was proposed. A messenger was 
sent to Independence, and the siege was still in 
progress when citizens from there, eighteen miles 
away, reached Lone Pine. Dabeeny and Palacio 
both ran out, and both fell, pierced by many bul- 
lets. Then others were allowed to come out and 
surrender. Some of them, of previous good char- 
acter and guilty of no offense except being in bad 
company, were released. Two were told to leave 
Lone Pine and never to return. They left, and 
the next day their bodies were found beside the 
road leading southerly. 

W. L. (Dad) Moore was appointed to the office 
made vacant by Passmore's death. He was said 
to have received his nickname by reason of having 
been the ''dad" of the town of Lone Pine, having 
been one of its first residents. He had filled the 
Sheriff's office before. 

The town of Independence prepared to cele- 
brate the Fourth of July, 1879, in fitting style, 
but the celebration was not to occur. Late on the 
afternoon of the 3d a drunken row started be- 
tween men named Welch and Tessier, in what was 
known as the Aldine saloon on the site now occu- 
pied by the Inyo County Bank. Moore hearing 
the disturbance, went in and stepped between them 


to keep the peace. Welch had his pistol drawn 
and brought it do^vn opposite the Sheriff's body, 
and it was discharged immediately. The bullet 
passed through Moore's watch, then through his 
body, and he died in a few minutes. Welch was 
promptly put into jail. Tessier fled, and a fren- 
zied hunt for him began. Some hours later he 
was found under a house. Though he was wholly 
innocent of the Sheriff's murder, popular excite- 
ment was inflamed, and while Welch reposed in 
the safety of a cell Tessier would probably have 
been lynched but for the counsels of Pat Reddy. 
Welch, who fired the fatal shot, played insanity 
and ''went up" for ten years; Tessier, who was 
guilty of nothing worse than brawling, was given 
a three-year sentence. 




Cerro Gordo stands undisputedly as the Inyo 
County camp of greatest production, notwith- 
standing that no one knows, within some millions, 
what the total was. About $13,000,000 was the 
estimate at the close of its first period of life. The 
boom spirit of mining writers some twenty years 
ago raised the statement to $28,000,000, appar- 
ently just for the sound of it. The best available 
information is that the actual gross production 
of the camp's best days was approximately 

Tradition long current in Inyo, and supported 
by pioneers of the old camp, has it that the first 
discovery was made by one Pablo Flores and two 
other Mexicans in 1865; that the companions of 
Flores were killed by Indians and that he was 
allowed to go after promising never to return. A 
letter written from the camp in 1868 said only 
that Flores had found some very rich float while 
traveling from the eastward w^ith an Indian guide. 

Another version was current and believed in 



Virginia City, Nevada, at the time of Cerro 
Gordo's prosperity. It ran that a packer named 
Savariano, employed by a Comstock Mexican mine 
owner, ran away with a packtrain of forty mules 
laden with very rich ore. This he was supposed 
to take to Placerville for reduction, and he started 
according to program. When out of sight of his 
employer he headed south with the whole caval- 
cade. On this trip he was said to have found the 
Cerro Gordo mines. A Virginia paper said the 
absconding of Savariano was a matter of common 
knowledge. Be that as it may, the Flores version 
was accepted by Inyoites, including those who 
knew the old Mexican up to the time of his death 
near Owens Lake. 

Flores and a few companions were on the 
ground later in 1865 and located the Ygnacio, San 
Felipe and San Francisco claims. A small amount 
of ore was worked in the vesos, or crude furnaces. 
Their success brought a few Americans to the 
camp ; the latter people made some locations, but 
did little or no work. 

The first sincere effort at development was 
made by a Mexican named Ochoa, who began work 
on a claim known as the San Lucas. He employed 
a few of his countrymen, and had the ore worked 
at the Silver Sprout mill, west of Independence. 
An increased number of miners came, and on 
April 5, 1866, Lone Pine district, including the 
new camp, was organized, with J. J. Moore as its 
Recorder. The first claim offered for record was 
the Jesus Maria. On January 1, 1870, 999 loca- 
tions had been filed for record in the district. 


Among the early arrivals were M. W. Belshaw 
and A. B. Elder. After examination they left, but 
soon returned to begin development. Elder was 
succeeded by Victor Beaudry. Belshaw & Beaudry 
remained the bonanza firm of the hill; with them 
were associated Egbert Judson and others as par- 
ties in interest. 

To supply the water required for the camp 
Belshaw & Beaudry laid a pipe line, which froze 
and bursted the following winter, and was then 
replaced by a better system. The firm began ac- 
quiring control of ' ' the hill, ' ' as the camp was gen- 
erally called throughout the region. Among their 
purchases was a group of four claims for which 
they paid John B. White and P. Williams $20,000. 
Important ground adjoining the Union, one of 
their chief properties, remained independent, how- 
ever, and under the same ownership as the Owens 
Lake Silver-Lead Company later became the basis 
of the suit which helped to check operations. 

C. F. R. Hahn, the mystery of whose loss has 
been mentioned in this record, was one of the dis- 
coverers of wholly new ground to the eastward of 
the main camp. W. L. Hunter, John Beveridge 
and others of honored Inyo memory were also 
among the owners in the eastern section. 

Two slagging furnaces, two blast furnaces, 
crusher, blower and other equipment were in use 
in the camp by 1870, all operated by steam and 
all well housed. In 1871 the use of slagging fur- 
naces was done away with, decreasing expenses 
$50 a day at each furnace. Another improvement 
was the application of the water jacket, first de- 
vised and used by Belshaw. 


One of the first undertakings was a tollroad up 
from Owens Valley, a few miles distant. The 
road was held by Belshaw & Beaudry, though 
others assisted in its building for the benefit of 
their own properties. Those others found them- 
selves on the same footing as strangers when it 
came to paying tolls. Their objections ended with 
complaints until 1871, when citizen John Simpson 
was arrested for misdemeanor in passing the 
tollgate without paying. To secure a jury used 
up venires amounting to ninety men ; the Justice 
court trial filled two days, and ended in a verdict 
of not guilty. A popular subscription was imme- 
diately raised and a free road was built to Cerro 
Gordo. The toll road went out of commission. 

Two stage companies ran daily conveyances 
from Lone Pine, every vehicle carrying full loads. 
A through-service line ran between Aurora, 
Nevada, and Cerro Gordo, charging $39 for the 

When the not always dependable pipe lines 
were out of order, water was brought in on pack 
mules and sold at 10 cents per gallon for the 
small buyer and from 5 to S% cents for the whole- 
sale consumer. The water bill of the American 
Hotel was $300 a month, and each furnace and 
the Union hoist ran at a daily expense of $120 for 
water. Fifty pack mules were busy in the water 

In 1872 Beaudry bought the San Lucia (or 
San Lucas) and added it to the syndicate's list. 
Eleven producing mines were being operated. In 
addition to the furnaces at the camp, ore was being 


smelted at the Owens Lake Silver-Lead company's 
plant at Swansea, at the lake. 

While the bulk of production came from ores 
of more moderate grade, values up to $800 or 
more per ton were too common to attract much 
attention. One of the mines counted rock carry- 
ing 180 ounces of silver as its second-class grade. 
Beaudry reported in 1872 that ''the mine" (prob- 
ably the Union) was sending up 70 tons of ore 
each ten hours. He was about to increase his 
furnace capacity to ten tons of bullion daily. Each 
furnace was then turning out 100 to 150 83-pound 
bars each twenty-four hours. 

Transportation of the bullion was a problem, 
and it was not unusual for the furnaces to shut 
down because of being too far ahead of the teams. 
For a while hauling contracts were made with any 
and all comers, but this proved unsatisfactory, and 
the mine owners organized the Cerro Gordo 
Freighting Company. They associated Nadeau, a 
teamster, with them; he took active charge, and 
made a fortune from the service. The corporation 
became the dominant factor in Liyo transporta- 
tion, and so remained up to the advent of the rail- 
road. The line was equipped with huge wagons, 
each hauled by sixteen to twenty animals. Fifty- 
six of these outfits were on the road, and still could 
not move the bullion to tidewater half as fast as it 
rolled from the furnaces. Some relief was given by 
the building of the small steamer Bessie Brady, a 
craft of 85 feet length and 16 feet beam. This 
vessel plying between Swansea, at the north- 
eastern comer of the lake, Ferguson's Landing, 


at the northwestern, and Cartago, at the south- 
western, took eight days out of the round trips 
of the teams, yet the increased number of trips 
of the wagons could not move the bullion fast 
enough. To see the bullion piled up like cordwood 
at different points was quite the usual thing. 
Piled up bars were sometimes used for construct- 
ing temporary shelters, by those without other 
resources. "WTiile the bullion was not high grade, 
those shacks were often worth more money than 
their occupants ever dreamed of possessing. 

A contemporary estimate stated the bullion 
output in tons as follows : 1869, 1,000 ; 1870, 1,500 ; 
1871, 2,500; 1872, 4,000; 1873, 5,000; 1874, 6,000. 
An authentic record of at least part of the output 
is afforded by the records of the Los Angeles and 
San Pedro Railroad, opened November 1, 1869. 
From that date to the end of 1870 the road car- 
ried 21,704 bars, 1,589,000 pounds of Cerro Gordo 
bullion; 1871, 51,000 bars, 4,491,000 pounds; 1872, 
62,390 bars, 5,303,150 pounds ; 1873, 58,056 bars, 
4,826,741 pounds; during January, 1874, 9,570 
bars, 789,961 pounds. During some of the period 
of greatest production a large part of the bullion 
did not go over that road. 

Large mining locations were permitted. The 
Santa Maria, for example, was 3,000 feet in 
length, though but 150 feet wide. It was 1872 be- 
fore any change was made in the district; it was 
then reorganized under the name of Cerro Gordo 
and regulations were adopted conforming to the 
newly made Federal requirements. 

The San Felipe claim was one that Belshaw & 



Beaudry were unable to secure. Inspection of a 
map of the district shows that its boundaries 
crossed Belshaw's ground, outlining an area to 
which both ownerships laid claim. Ore had been 
coming up through the Union shaft, near the 
doubly-claimed ground, for five years, however, 
before the inevitable litigation began. Suit was 
started in January, 1873, by the San Felipe com- 
pany, Galen M. Fisher, Chas. H. Wheeler and 
Alfred Wheeler, plaintiffs, against Belshaw & 
Beaudry, to recover possession of 2,100 feet of the 
San Felipe mine — another illustration of the gen- 
erous manner in which the locators had helped 
themselves. The plaintiffs also asked for $20,000 
damages, and rents and profits amounting to 
$1,000,000; also for possession of the San Felipe 
tunnel and $15,000 damages on that account. The 
suit was tried in Independence in June, 1873, and 
occupied nine days. Judge Belden of San Jose, 
presiding, instructed the jury that if it found that 
the San Felipe and Union veins were separate its 
verdict should be for the latter company. Ex- 
perts Goodyear, Price and Henscli swore to the 
distinct character of the two properties. Reports 
of the case may have been somewhat prejudiced, 
but rather favored the Union contention; never- 
theless the San Felipe people were given posses- 
sion of the disputed ground. The demands for 
damages seem to have been dropped, for they do 
not appear in the judgment. The suit dragged 
through the courts until in 1876 the warring inter- 
ests united in forming the Union Consolidated 
Company, with representatives of each side on 


the directorate. Belshaw was one of the directors, 
but did not thereafter participate in the manage- 
ment. The Union works were burned August 14, 
1877; the furnaces closed down the following 

Other properties, notably the Ygnacio, had 
been contributing to the camp's production during 
all this period; but the stoppage of work on the 
Union marked the end of that era of Cerro Gordo 's 
activity. The verdict that the mines were worked 
out was of course commonly accepted ; the fallacy 
of this belief was to be amply demonstrated later. 

From December 1, 1873, to November 1, 1874, 
the Union produced 12,171 tons of ore averaging 
87 ounces silver and 47 per cent lead per ton. "With 
silver worth $1.29 per ounce and lead worth 5 
cents per pound, conditions were more favorable 
than those which came along later. On the other 
hand, other conditions were much less favorable. 
The daily cost of water, already mentioned, was 
but a small item in the total. Transportation for 
machinery and supplies in, and bullion out, cost 
from $55.50 to $120 per ton. Wood had been 
abundant when the first work was done, but the 
hillsides near at hand were soon swept bare, and 
fuel rose to $10 a cord for wood and 321^ cents a 
bushel for charcoal, the only fuels available for 
the furnaces. Belshaw stated in 1876 that it cost 
$19.62 a ton to mine and work the ore. In the 
earlier days, average recovery of metal was from 
50 to 65 per cent of the lead and 90 per cent of 
the silver. 

An incident of the camp was the discovery that 


muoh quartz richly laden with gold had gone over 
the dump as waste. Its value had been hidden by 
peculiar discoloration. Thousands of dollars of it 
were stolen by men who became informed sooner 
than did the mine management. 

One company or lessee after another undertook 
to work the old mines after the Union Consoli- 
dated people quit, but for three decades the record 
was one of failure. Then in 1911 Louis D. Gordon 
took hold, after discovering that quantities of zinc 
ores had been thrown away or disregarded by 
former managements. He proceeded with devel- 
opment along original lines, under discouraging 
circumstances, with such results that Cerro Gordo 
once more made Inyo the leading California 
county in lead and silver as well as zinc produc- 



Cerro Gordo having passed through the pre- 
liminary stages of a mining-camp stampede, and 
being an established and producing camp, the ' * ex- 
citement" followers were ready for a new field. 
It soon appeared, in Panamint — a name which 
divers fiction writers use even to this day as a 
place for locating some of their imaginings. 

The first discoveries were made in April, 1873, 
by R. C. Jacobs, R. B. Stewart and W. L. Ken- 
nedy. By June eighty or more locations had been 
made. Some of the ore samples showed values 
running into the thousands of dollars. E. P. 
Raines, a man of daring character but limited at- 
tainments, secured a bond on the principal claims, 
and undertook to finance the camp. No success 
met his first efforts, and he had to return to Pana- 
mint for samples of the ore as verification of his 
highly colored statements. He selected half a ton 
of rich samples, and sent it to Los Angeles. In 
the barroom of one of the principal hotels there 



he made a display that was the talk of the town. 
He made no effort to do business, but gained the 
confidence of prominent citizens and induced a 
commercial body to take up the building of a road 
to the mines. His efforts resulted in much news- 
paper publicity, which stood him in good stead 
when he proceeded to San Francisco, his chosen 
field. ''Colonel" Raines, as he was soon dubbed, 
went to the metropolis and his display of ores 
made as much of a furore there as it had in Los 
Angeles. He approached Senator John P. Jones 
and secured a loan of $1,000, which vanished in a 
huge celebration that night. The next morning 
Eaines was in jail and Senator Jones was on his 
way to Washington. The "Colonel" found a 
friend who provided bail and loaned him money 
enough with which to go to Washington. There 
he presented the cause of the Panamint mines so 
plausibly that Jones advanced more money, to the 
total of $15,000. Then Senators Jones and Stewart 
organized the Panamint Mining Company, with 
$2,000,000 capital stock — and it is said that the 
camp cost those gentlemen just about that much. 

The road to the camp at that time was by way 
of Little Lake, or Lagunita, as it was then called. 
The first rush went that way, but ere long a more 
convenient way was opened and Panamint was 
brought into closer touch with Owens Valley. 

Senators Jones and Stewart had paid $350,000 
for some of the more prominent claims. Many 
other sales were made. Some of the early locators 
bore unsavory reputations, and perforce had to 
do business through trusted middlemen. In one 


instance, a sale was made and the owners went to 
San Francisco to get their money. At this junc- 
ture representatives of Wells, Fargo- & Co. 
stepped in and demanded $12,000 to cover losses 
due to former depredations on the express com- 
pany's treasure box by some of the parties who 
were selling the mines. The party chiefly con- 
cerned was given his choice of making that pay- 
ment or submitting to arrest. He paid and coolly 
asked for a receipt in full. 

Many companies were organized, nearly all 
finally either flickering out or being united in the 
Surprise Valley Mill & Mining Company. Some 
of the ore was worked in England; that it could 
be mined, shipped hundreds of miles over the 
desert, then to England, and finally worked and 
return a substantial profit to the mine owners is 
suflficient evidence of its value. 

The first mill was built on the Jacob's Wonder 
mine. The ' ' big mill ' ' of twenty stamps was built 
by the company and began running June 29, 1875. 

In March, 1874, an enthusiastic Panaminter 
claimed that there were 125 men in the camp. In 
November the most conservative estimate of popu- 
lation put it at 1,000. The maximum population 
was probably 1,500, though a San Francisco writer 
in January, 1875, said there were 2,000 to 2,500 in 
camp. As late as 1876 the camp was still ''going 
strong," for there were 963 votes cast at an elec- 
tion for Recorder. 

The main camp was laid out — or more properly 
speaking, laid itself out, along the bottom of a nar- 
row canyon high up on the western slope of the 


Panamint Mountains, which form the western rim 
of Death Valley. For a while it consisted of a 
mile of tent-lined street; then stone and frame 
buildings began to arise. This was after trans- 
portation had been improved by the building of a 
road, a process requiring, in some places, the 
blasting of a way out of solid rock. 

A pioneer resident of the camp writes that few 
wagons were used after reaching the town, be- 
cause the canyon and hillsides were so steep that 
wheels were useless. Nearly all transportation 
at that period was on the backs of mules and 
burros. But one wagon was in use in the camp, 
and it was used by the butcher to move meats 
from the slaughter house to the market. This 
outfit served many purposes, including service as 
a hearse when it was needed. 

Undoubtedly Panamint contained an assort- 
ment of the worst desperadoes on the coast out- 
side of the penitentiaries. There was as much 
violence, in proportion, as in any of the earlier 
camps. The disappearance of a well known deni- 
zen of the resorts might be explained to an in- 
quirer by the terse statement : * * Oh, he 's planted 
in Sour Dough," the latter being a little canyon 
in which the burial ground was situated. 

Senator Wm. Stewart and Trenor W. Park, 
his confidential agent and assistant, visited Pana- 
mint to look over their properties during the sum- 
mer of 1875. As they were preparing to take their 
seats in the stage, on the morning of their de- 
parture, one of their employees, a man named 
McKinley, had a dispute with one Jim Bruce. 


With but a few preliminaries the disputants pulled 
their guns and began firing. The Senator and his 
comrade hastily took refuge behind a stone wall 
until the bombardment was over. Both* gunners 
were laid out and ready for the stretchers kept in 
the office of the Justice of the Peace for such uses. 
Bruce recovered with a crippled arm, but McKin- 
ley died three days later. The local paper casually 
remarked : 

An Unfortunate Affair. — We are pained to record that 
during an unfortunate affair which occurred at the express 
office, previous to the departure of the stage three days ago, 
one of our esteemed fellow citizens was compelled to resort to 
violent measures to protect his person. His opponent will be 
buried tomorrow in the little cemetery in Sour Dough. 

The matter was too inconsequential to justify 
publishing the victim's name. 

Bruce was put to the inconvenience of arrest 
and examination by the Justice of the Peace, but 
was discharged on the usual ground of self-de- 

In all mining camps of that period saloons were 
among the first establishments to open, and were 
the most numerous places in the business census. 
The only absolute requisites for beginning were 
a barrel or two of alcoholic compound and utensils 
for dishing it up for customers. Profits soon led 
to expansion. Panamint had not only this class 
of deadfalls but also *'gin mills" of much more 
pretensions. One of these, fitted up at a cost of 
$10,000, was the property of Dave Nagle, the man 
who some years later shot and killed Judge Terry, 
of early California notoriety. The opening of a 


better class saloon in Panamint is thus described 
by one who saw much of the camp's life : 

The representative men in camp were duly notified and in- 
vited to be present; they always were duly expected to be 
there and they always were, if not prevented by a previous 
drunk or ill luck in a shooting scrape. The leading mining su- 
perintendent, who represented companies expending a million 
or more, was counted on for an expenditure of at least $500, 
and he never disappointed the boys. The festivities usually 
opened early and mildly, with free drinks to any and all 
visitors, who were cordially invited to partake often and stay 
all night. The latter request was usually put in such liberal 
spirit as to impress all with its honesty, for later on when the 
fun grew furious each head counted in the score for a drink, 
which were ordered by men amply able to pay in cash, or by 
check "good as wheat" on presentation at the company's of- 

As the night grew on and the fun increased there was no 
limit to the number except as the common guzzlers fell by 
the wayside. The "tony crowd" were left to indulge in cham- 
pagne in quantities unlimited. It often resulted in a rivalry 
of wild pandemonium, for as the barkeeper drank often he 
became very tired and would expedite his labors in filling an 
order for a basket of champagne by placing it on the floor, 
removing the lid and directing the revelers to help themselves. 
This generally occurred during the early morning hours. 
Often the roisterers had divested themselves of most of their 
clothing, and, whooping like Indians, would march around 
the open basket, each with a bottle in his hand, drinking, and 
firing their revolvers into the floor or up into the ceiling. Then 
was the time to look for bad blood, and hostilities opened 
between rival "bad men," who were in numbers sufficient to 
rule the camp, and who took such opportunities to even up old 
scores. On such occasions very often a man would be killed, 
when the crowd would scatter and the festivities stop. The 
slayer would be duly arrested, taken to his cabin by a con- 
stable and allowed to take a nap. Later in the day he would 
be taken before the Justice, who after hearing evidence would 


invariably, out of deference to the ruling element, discharge 
the defendant on the ground of self-defense. 

Gambling there, as in other camps, was on a 
scale corresponding to the general wide-openness. 
Fortunes changed hands on trivial hazards; a 
sample poker game opened with an initial bet of 
$1,000, which was "seen" and ''raised" $4,000 
more, so that a "pot" of $10,000 was ready for 
the winner when he "showed down" a pair of 
aces and a pair of sixes. And there were other 
games of much larger proportions. 

Mention has been made of the local paper. 
This was a sheet containing four pages, each 
measuring a little less than seven by fourteen 
inches, including generous margins. Its first copy 
was dated November 26, 1874, and bore the names 
of D. P. Carr as editor and T. S. Harris as man- 
ager. Issue No. 2, on the 28th, notified the public 
that Carr was no longer connected with the paper ; 
issue No. 3, December 1st, denounced the late part- 
ner as an unprincipled deadbeat who had col- 
lected ahead for work in sight and left for other 

The Panamint News, tri-weekly, cost its sub- 
scribers 50 cents a week, $2 a month by carrier, 
$1.50 a month by mail. Advertising in it cost $4 a 
month for four lines, or 75 cents per line per issue. 

Some quotations from its columns will help to 
depict conditions : 

The town of Panamint now consists of twenty-six frame 
and board buildings besides a large number of stockades and 
tents. Within the next month, if lumber can be had, at least 
one hundred buildings will be erected. 


Meals can be had for 75 cents at one restaurant and $1 at 

Market prices: Flour per 100 lbs., $8.50 and $9; bacon, 
per lb., 28c; ham, 30c; meats, 20c and 30c; potatoes, 10c; 
sugar, 20e and 25c; butter, 75c and $1; apples, 25c; barley, 
8c and 10c; hay, 6c to 10c; eggs, per dozen, $1 to $2. 

There are now over 600 locations in the district. The ores 
are mainly copper-silver glance and chloride of silver. Assays 
and working tests show values of from $100 to $4,000, the 
average being about $400. 

The Cerro Gordo Freighting Company is running a line 
of teams from Cerro Gordo to Panamint; freight 5 cents per 

The Fourth of July, 1875, was duly celebrated 
in Panamint. The same little butcher's cart which 
had been used impartially for hauling carcasses 
of beeves and of roughs who had died with their 
boots on was on this occasion made to do service 
as a car of state. It was preceded by the **band," 
consisting (an eye witness states) of a tuba and a 
bass drum. When the procession reached the 
point for turning to countermarch, the canyon was 
so narrow that the outfit had to be lifted around 
by man-power. In the vehicle was a young lady, 
representing the Goddess of Liberty and three 
little girls, all there were in camp. This is 
the way editor Harris described it : 

The Car of State was decorated by Grand Marshal Paris 
and Mr. Stebbins, and reflected much credit on those gentle- 
men for its gorgeous beauty. It was brought into the proces- 
sion at the proper time, filled with the young ladies and chil- 
dren of Panamint. 

He avoided contradicting the inferences of his 
flowery account by ''being unable to obtain for 
publication the names of the children." 


An incident of the place was the adoption by 
a miners ' meeting, of a resolution excluding Chi- 

The rich ores were there, but in most cases in 
such metallurgical combinations as to defy the 
working processes in vogue. While some money 
was recovered from them, the yield was not com- 
mensurate with the cost of recovery. Stewart and 
Jones tired of spending huge sums in trying to 
overcome the drawbacks. They persisted, how- 
ever, for more than two years, but in May, 1877, 
the end of that regime came in the shutting down 
of the Surprise Valley mill. 





Most of the Inyo mining districts now known 
were discovered within a few years of the rise of 
Cerro Gordo. Some attracting much attention at 
the time are unknown to the Inyoite of today; 
others are still on the producing list. 

A fact that impresses the investigator in con- 
nection with those discoveries was the invariable 
belief of the finder that he had come upon one of 
the greatest bonanzas on record. "The biggest 
mine in the world," **the most important mining 
discovery ever made in the county," *'a find that 
will surpass Cerro Gordo," "a perfect Com- 
stock," are bona fide sample phrases from de- 
scriptions of prospects which long since have been 
abandoned. Truly the prospector is ever opti- 
mistic. Had every find measured up to the claim 
made for it, gold and silver would have become 
but common metals. 

Waucoba was one of the first of the new dis- 
tricts. Its discovery date is unknown. Col. 
James Brady was actively at work there in 1872, 



and the Waucoba Mining and Smelting Company 
built, in 1873, a road which is still in use for reach- 
ing latter-day producing properties in that gen- 
eral vicinity. 

Pigeon Springs and Log Springs were among 
the bidders for favor in 1873. Another district of 
that year was Sylvania, organized June 14th, and 
situated on the Nevada border line. W. S. Kin- 
caid was its discoverer. Two later revivals and 
the expenditure of much money are in its record. 

Some of the other locations of the period was 
the Lucky Jim property in 1875, which was sold 
that same year by James Ferguson, who after- 
ward organized the New Coso Mining Company. 
Ubehebe, for some time known as Rose Springs 
district, was found by W. L. Hunter, J. B. Hunter, 
J. L. Porter and Thomas McDonough in 1875. 
They sold to M. W. Belshaw, who talked of build- 
ing reduction works, probably in Saline Valley, 
but did not carry out the plan. Beveridge dis- 
trict, named for pioneer John Beveridge, was dis- 
covered by W. L. Hunter and others in 1877. 
Poleta provided the mining excitement of 1881. 
Prospecting had gone on in the White Mountains 
east of Bishop from the earliest coming of white 
settlers, with such results that more than one am- 
bitious ''city" had been staked out, only to be 
forgotten. In all probability some of the claims 
which changed hands for thousands during the 
days of Poleta were on the same ground that made 
Keyes District the hope of prospectors in the mid- 
dle '60s. 

These were all discoveries that could be 


matched many times over, in the matter of real 
results. The finding of Darwin was of more con- 
sequence. It became the successor of Panamint in 
public interest, in 1876, and today, over two score 
years later, still has promise. It had a boom next 
in importance, in this county, to Cerro Gordo and 
Panamint. Furnaces were built to smelt its rich 
ores; water was piped into the camp. Harris 
moved his printing office from Panamint, and pro- 
duced a paper of high merit. Hundreds of men 
were employed in the mines and mills. The usual 
factor of assisted mortality developed, but while 
life was held cheaply by a certain class of the 
population the place was less absolutely wild than 
its more prominent predecessors. 

Two booming camps that were products of 
later years were Greenwater and Skidoo. The 
record of Greenwater has few parallels in its sud- 
den rise, great outlays, small returns and quick 
decline. Locations had been made there as early 
as 1884, and others were made in 1894 by Doctor 
Trotter, for gold and silver values. Inaccessibility 
caused all these claims to be abandoned — though 
that quality seems to contribute to the success of 
** excitements, " once they are fairly launched. It 
was high grade copper ore that caused the final 
rush, twenty years later than the locations for 
more precious metals. 

The camp was situated on the sunrise side of 
the Funeral Mountains, but a short distance 
across the crest from where the slope into Death 
Valley begins. It looked out easterly over hun- 
dreds of miles of barren waste. The Amargosa's 


bitter flow, twenty-four miles away, was the most 
easily reached water when the camp began. Ob- 
taining supplies involved hauling for many miles 
over roads so trying that the portion traversed in 
approaching the claims was fittingly named Dead 
Horse Gulch. 

Contemporary newspaper records credit the 
first copper discoveries to men named McAllister 
and Cook, with whom Arthur Kunze soon became 
associated. The Copper Blue ledge was found in 
February, 1905, by Fred Bimey and Phil Creaser, 
who took samples of the outcrop to Independence 
when they went there to record their claims. 
While at the county seat they sent specimens of 
the ore to Patsy Clark, prominent in the copper 
mining world. Clark was so impressed that he 
sent engineer Joseph P. Harvey to investigate. 
Harvey, leaving the railroad at Daggett, Cal., lost 
his outfit in a cloudburst at Cave Springs, and had 
to go back for a fresh start. On his second trip 
he reached the right locality, but owing to faulty 
directions was unable to find the claims. Birney 
and Creaser afterward went there and did some 
development work, and again sought to enlist 
Clark's interest. This time Clark came to Ehyo- 
lite, Nevada, and from there sent Cleary, another 
of his engineers, to make the examination. The 
report was so favorable that Clark immediately 
bought the Birney and Creaser holdings. Dennis 
Clark, brother of Patsy, visited the prospects and 
confirmed previous reports, as well as sending in 
men and supplies for real development. Cleary 
also sent men on his own account, and became the 



owner of some of the most prominent locations in 
the district. Others who promptly invested were 
Chas. Schwab, Augustus Hei^ze, T. L. Oddiie, 
F. M. (Borax) Smith and others hardly less prom- 
inent in financial affairs. 

Within a month the population grew from 70 
to over 1,000, with at least a hundred newcomers 
over the desert roads every day. The copper 
kings who had taken hold began hiring all appli- 
cants, with the purpose of the speediest possible 
development. An early estimate of the amount 
paid for claims was $4,125,000. In four months 
and twelve days from the camp 's start 2,500 claims 
had been recorded. Stakes and monuments made 
a practically continuous string for thirty miles 
along the range, ground good, bad and indifferent 
being freely located. The first 50,000 shares of 
one of the companies were sold at Rhyolite, the 
nearest settlement. The records of easy and quick 
fortunes made in Tonopah and Goldfield stocks 
made marketing of shares easy. Prospectors in 
many cases wisely sold their claims, for ten, 
twenty or more thousands of dollars — ^whatever 
''pocket money" they could get. And in many 
instances it was only pocket money, for it was 
used to ''feed the tiger" in the gambling rooms 
and for other cash-reducing purposes. 

In one case, an engineer grubstaked a pros- 
pector, who located a claim and sold it for $3,000, 
of which the engineer got his part. The buyer 
asked the same engineer the next morning to visit 
and report on the property, and was told it was 
worthless. To be a party to locating a claim, share 


in the proceeds of its sale, and then get a fee for 
condemning it was something unique, at least. It 
was said, however, that the engineer did not know 
that he was reporting on his own claim; 

Greenwater was a camp "without a lid," but 
not without law of a kind. It was without peace 
officers for months, but made its own codes. An 
instance: One night an elderly man was robbed 
of $80. The four robbers were found by a select 
committee, and were instructed to be on the main 
street at 9 o'clock the next morning. Nearly the 
whole town was out at that hour to observe pro- 
ceedings. In brief and pointed remarks the cul- 
prits were informed that they had thirty minutes 
in which to adjust their affairs before leaving. 
One of the accused thought it would take him an 
hour to get things settled so he could leave, but 
after further remarks by the committee he found 
that he could finish his business and get away 
very handily within the time set. 

The barren hills afforded little fuel. During 
a storm flurry coal sold at $100 a ton and wood 
at $60 a cord. Water sold, at first, at $15 a barrel, 
later at half that figure — and small wonder at 
either figure since it had to be hauled from twenty- 
eight to thirty-five miles. Lumber cost $165 for 
1,000 feet. A frame store 35 by 60 feet, unshin- 
gled, cost $5,400. Hay was $6 and $7 a bale ; grain 
$5 and $6 a sack; gasoline a dollar a gallon or $10 
a case; potatoes and onions 10 to 12iA cents a 
pound ; ice, brought from Las Vegas, Nevada, the 
last fifty-five miles by auto, cost $10 for 100 
pounds. Wages in the mines were $5 to $7 ; car- 


penters got $8 to $10; musicians were paid $8, 
and such skilled labor as faro dealers drew $8 a 

The postoffice was run on economical lines. 
The Nasby in charge paid his clerks $5 for eight 
hours, which was more than his own return from 
the Government. Mail went into a box, and each 
individual fished out his own letters. 

On one occasion there was a water famine in 
camp. An enterprising resident borrowed a team 
and drove to Furnace Creek, twenty-eight miles, 
returning with two barrels of water. One was 
given to the owner of the team ; the other, dished 
out to pails and canteens, netted about $30. 

Though in the heart of the wilds, Greenwater 
had two newspapers, a small magazine, a $100,000 
bank, express and telephone service, professional 
men of all kinds, and of course all ordinary lines 
of business. 

When the camp began to show signs of de- 
pression, a man named McCarty walked into a 
neighboring saloon and remarked to the owner: 
* ' Nichols, two saloons on this side of the street are 
too many; I'll shake you the dice to see whether 
you take mine or I take yours. ' ' Nichols, without 
a word, reached back and picked up a dice box, 
and threw five sixes. McCarty shook and threw 
five aces. Nichols picked up his hat and started 
out. ''Hold on," said McCarty; ''take a drink." 
The transaction was complete. 

The stage to Greenwater burned one afternoon, 
and with it the mailbags containing $30,000. The 
driver's first knowledge of the fire was when a bale 


of hay on the vehicle blazed up. The team was 
cut loose ; the rest of the outfit was a total loss. 

It was from that locality somewhere that a 
cheerful wag wrote that he was employed on the 
''graveyard shift in the Coffin mine, Tombstone 
Mountains, Funeral Range, overlooking Death 
Valley. ' ' The graveyard shift, it may be remarked 
for the benefit of readers unacquainted with min- 
ing slang, is the one which includes midnight, when 
sepulchers traditionally yawn. 

The owning corporations spent much money 
in trying to prove their mines. The ledges "went 
down," but values of encouraging degree ended 
at about 200 feet depth. Workings were con- 
tinued far underground, while various Greenwater 
stocks held a place in eastern exchanges, until 
finally abandonment was necessary. Some of the 
location monuments were made of high grade ore 
and were included in the shipments made to smel- 
ters. The last watchman on the ground, it was 
said, was a rancher whose home was at Ash Mead- 
ows, on the Amargosa. He had teams and wagons 
and time to spare, so more or less of the decadent 
city may still serve a useful purpose in a changed 

Greenwater 's nearest neighbor was Skidoo, on 
the mountain summit on the western edge of Death 
Valley. That camp did not reach Greenwater 's 
height of fame, nor did it fall as rapidly, for it 
was a producer for some years after the copper 
camp had become as deserted as when the Death 
Valley party of '49 had toiled along within sight 
of its location. The Skidoovians numbered 700 


or more, at the camp's maximum. A bank and a 
newspaper were among its institutions. Gold and 
silver ores were its sources of production. One 
of its contributions to the records was a lynching 
affair, the only such instance in Inyo county except 
the summary vengeance taken on the convicts in 
1871. The Skidoo affair happened April 22, 1908. 
The desperado whose career was cut short was 
named Joe Simpson. Three days earlier he had 
entered the bank and demanded twenty dollars. 
Being refused and disarmed, he had gone away 
and ''heeled himself," returned and shot a clerk. 
As he had previously declared an intention of kill- 
ing four other citizens, Skidoo sentiment fully 
coincided with the paper's page-wide headline 
"Murderer Lynched with General Approval," 
and its comment that ' ' the removal of this pest by 
a feeling so excellent has caused a feeling of re- 
lief throughout the camp." There was certainly 
no great squeamishness about it, for when a resi- 
dent wanted a photograph of the suspended Simp- 
son's appearance the corpse was again connected 
with the rope and put into the position occupied 
in his final moments. The noose was treasured as 
a souvenir by a morbid-minded bartender. An 
inquest was held, at which one witness testified 
to having been awakened twenty-three times dur- 
ing the night to hear the news, and he had been 
greatly surprised each time. Another said Joe 
"was a true Bohemian — he hung around all 
night. ' ' 

The camp was, however, above the average in 
law observance, and little crime occurred in it. 


The finest of mountain water was piped many 
miles from high up on Telescope Peak. Its mining 
settled to a one-company basis, and in time its 
deposits were, apparently, worked out. 

A new mineral was added to Inyo 's known list 
(already pronounced by authorities to be more 
comprehensive than that of any other county), 
when in August, 1913, James Powning picked up 
tungsten float in the hills west of Bishop, at a 
spot where he had gone to pick up a rabbit he had 
shot. The claim then located was named the Jack- 
rabbit. A. W. Nobles and C. C. Cooper were in 
partnership with him in the find. It was not until 
the spring of 1916 that sufficient money for devel- 
oping the claims became available, when F. M. 
Townsend, A. J, Clark and others bought the 
original and subsequent locations. Mills were 
built, one of them the largest tungsten concen- 
trating plant in the w^orld. Production continued 
to be important until the fall of prices following 
the Great War made it impossible to work those 
and other large properties of the same nature, in 
that general locality, at a profit. 

During the middle '80s large marble quarries 
were opened near Keeler, producing a material 
which tests proved to be stronger in crushing re- 
sistance than any other known. Much marble was 
taken out during succeeding years, more or less of 
it being used for finishing some of the coast's 
large buildings. This form of production will 
doubtless continue for years to come. 

The growth of another mineral industry is also 
to be noted, in the reclamation of soda and other 


salts from the heavily mineralized waters of 
Owens Lake. Locations on the shore of Owens 
Lake were made in the early months of 1885, by 
L. F. J. Wrinkle, for the purpose of constructing 
vats in which to evaporate the water in order to 
recover the saline contents. Names of 839 persons 
were on the original notices, which serves to indi- 
cate the large area claimed. The Inyo Develop- 
ment Company was formed by Nevada capitalists, 
and ever since has continued to gather the residue 
from those vats. Noah Wrinkle, son of the orig- 
inal locator, worked out a chemical process by 
which a wider range of products was obtained, 
and less dependent on the density of the water 
used. This was the basis of the Natural Soda 
Products Company, which Watterson Brothers 
took up at a critical stage of the company's career, 
and which has become an enterprise as great in 
magnitude as it is unique in its processes. Others 
of similar nature have also been established to 
reclaim the lake's mineral wealth. 

Saline Valley, containing vast beds of salt, of 
a grade purer in its natural state than any other 
known, has been the scene of some development 
operation, and in time its resources may come to 
be of extensive importance. Another yield of the 
burning deserts is borax, which has been to some 
extent recovered in Saline Valley, but principally 
mined in the far eastern region of the county as 
more fully mentioned in a later chapter. 

Ballarat, a central point for miners in the 
Panamints, and Modock, Ubehebe, Bishop Creek, 
Bunker Hill and other camps which as a rule have 


been or are single-mine enterprises appear in the 
county's mining record; however, the purpose of 
these chapters is not to review details but to note 
the outstanding facts of mining progress. 







It is apparently well authenticated that Mor- 
mon emissaries had been in Death Valley pros- 
pecting even before Brier, Manly, Doty and their 
people made their fatal journey, and that the ori- 
gin of Furnace Creek's naming was in a small 
roasting plant there for reducing ores. 

The first visit there by scientific observers was 
by a Dr. Owen and other members of the State 
boundary commission in 1861. The Wheeler ex- 
pedition went there in 1871, and in 1875 Lieut. 
Birney and party crossed Death Valley several 
times. In the meantime many persons without 
ofiicial connections had been there. One of these 
was W. T. Henderson, mentioned in these chron- 
icles. He failed to find the elusive Grunsight lead 
— a legacy of the Death Valley party of 1849 — 
but he did w^hat no other man before him had 
done, by climbing to the top of the highest of the 
Panamints. To the west he saw the Slate, Argus 
and other ranges, and beyond them the blue 
Sierras. To the south rose the Calico range, Pilot 



Butte, and the far-off San Bernardinos. North- 
west were the White Mountains; to the east, the 
Funerals, Avawatz, and one unnamed range after 
another. Two miles below were beds of salt, soda, 
borax; the black dots of lava buttes; mesquite 
trees made spots of dark green; apparent stream 
channels where cloudbursts had ripped open the 
earth's surface. Telescope Peak he named the 
commanding mountain, and Telescope Peak it is 

Dr. Darwin French visited and named Fur- 
nace Creek, in 1860. Later in the same year Dr. 
S. Gr. George and associates were there and found 
many relics of the emigrants of '49, as well as of 
later travelers. The latter were accounted for by 
the finding of skeletons, some of them in the vicin- 
ity of springs. One of his finds was a slab of 
marble about an inch thick, about the size of and 
perfectly grooved like a common washboard. 

Those who went to Death Valley between 1849 
and the discovery of borax included all elements 
of society. There were men of education seeking 
scientific information; there were honest pros- 
pectors with no reason for avoiding the haunts of 
men; and, particularly during the early '70 's, 
there were some about whom it was well not to 
be too inquisitive. Undue curiosity in such mat- 
ters has sometimes been an infraction of the so- 
cial code that met with serious, if not fatal, 
objection. It was said that the region contained 
deserters from Civil War armies, draft dodgers, 
and men who ''had no use for sheriffs nohow." 
It is certain that when even the free-and-easv at- 


mosphere of early Nevada and Inyo proved too 
dangerous for certain individuals they headed for 
the deep desert. There was a resident Indian 
population of reasonable repute, and there were 
Indian renegades as well as whites. 

In 1870 one "Bellerin' " Teck appeared upon 
the scene. ''Bellerin's" characteristics are un- 
recorded, beyond the fact that he was a ''bad 
man," as were many who headed for the deep 
deserts as for a city of refuge. Furnace Creek 
was the site he chose for a location, and there he 
is said to have raised "alfalfa, barley and 
quails." One of his visitors was a Mormon 
named Jackson, who traded him a yoke of oxen 
in exchange for part of the ranch. The partner- 
ship was of brief duration, for "Bellerin' " and 
a shotgun ran the Saint out of the valley within 
a week. Teck, together with the voice from which 
it is presumed he derived his soubriquet, passes 
from our record. 

The general average improved considerably 
when borax operations began, and forces of work- 
ingmen were taken in. About forty men were 
employed at the works when they were busiest. 
Later, Greenwater lived its feverish hour just 
over the summit to the east of Death Valley, and 
Skidoo's population could look down into the 
noted spot. A townsite, christened Midway, was 
staked out on the Death Valley slope of the Fu- 
nerals during the Greenwater excitement, but it 
is not recorded that anyone, even the stakers, 
lived there. 

The industrial history of Death Valley began 
with the discovery of borax in 1880. 


Some time in those lonely years one Aaron 
Winters and his frail Spanish-American wife, 
Kosie, located at Ash Meadows, a place eastward 
across the Funerals from Death Valley, and 200 
miles from the then nearest railroad station or 
settlement. A visitor to their home thus described 

"Close against the hill, one side half hewn out of rock, 
stood a low stone building with tule thatched roof. The 
single room was about 15 feet square. In front was a canvas- 
covered addition about the same size. The earth served as a 
floor for both rooms. One side was the lady's boudoir. There 
was a window with a deep ledge, in the center of which was 
a starch box supporting a small looking-glass. On each side 
of the mirror hung old brushes, badly worn bits of ribbon, 
and some other fixings for the hair. Handy by was a lamp 
mat, covered with bottles of magnolia balm, complexion 
powders and Florida water— all, alas, empty, but still 
cherished by the wife. In place of a library there were a 
number of copies of the Police Gazette. The sugar, tea and 
coffee were kept under the bed. The water of the spring ran 
down the hill and formed a pool in front of the house, and 
here a number of ducks and chickens, with a pig and a big 
dog, formed a happy group, a group that wandered about in 
the house as well as romped beside the waters of the spring," 

One night a strolling prospector tarried at the 
Winters home. He told about the Nevada borax 
deposits, and what a great fortune was ready for 
whoever could find more borax beds. Winters, 
careful not to indicate any special reason for seek- 
ing knowledge, asked many questions in a casual 
way. Among other things he learned that sup- 
posed borax could be tested by pouring certain 
chemicals over it and firing the mixture. If it 
burned green, borax was present. 


When the guest left, Winters made haste to 
get chemicals from some remote supply point. He 
had seen stuff in Death Valley answering the gen- 
eral description of the Nevada borax. Equipped 
with testing supplies, Winters and his wife jour- 
neyed across the Funeral summit to Furnace 
Creek and made camp, then went to the marsh 
and got samples of the deposit. At night, they 
mixed their powdered samples, as they had been 
told, poured alcohol over it, and struck the match 
that was to tell the story. 

How would it burn I For years they had lived 
as the Piutes of the desert. Mesquite beans and 
chuckwalla had served them for food when flour 
and bacon were missing. The wife had felt the 
utter loneliness of their situation and the absence 
of everything dear to the feminine heart. The 
color of the flame would tell them whether better 
things were ahead, or if the same dreary existence 
must continue. 

Winters held a match to the mixture with a 
trembling hand. After an instant's pause he 
shouted at the top of his voice : ' ' She burns green, 
Eosie! We're rich!" 

When the news reached San Francisco W. T. 
Coleman and F. M. Smith sent agents to the rude 
habitation in Ash Meadows. When the purpose 
of the visit was made known, Eosie fished out a 
bag of pine nuts, and as the party munched them 
around the campfire the bargain was made. 
Winters and Eosie received $20,000 for their find. 

Before following the development of the borax 
fields, let us give a farewell word to Winters. On 


getting his money he bought out the Pahrump 
ranch, giving $15,000 cash and $5,000 in a 
mortgage. For a little while life held new charms 
for the couple but desert hardships had sapped 
the wife's slender vitality and she died ere long. 

It is told that one fall Winters had to go to 
Belmont, hundreds of miles away, to pay his 
taxes and do other business. Those were the days 
of ''road agents," and he prepared for emergen- 
cies. On the dash of his buckboard was a holster 
into which he "put a worthless pistol; a serviceable 
''navy" was concealed under the cushion on the 
seat. Nearing Belmont, two men invited him to 
dismount and turn over his money. Argument 
was useless and he had to comply. One of the 
bandits discovered the useless pistol in its holster, 
and it and the old man's demeanor served to 
throw the pair completely off their guard. Winters 
took a favorable opportunity to take the pistol 
from the seat and shoot one robber, and then to 
compel the other to put the corpse on the buck- 
board and go into Belmont with him. Through 
Winters' intercession the captured man was re- 
leased and taken by him to the Pahrump ranch to 
do honest toil. 

The earliest borax corporation in Death Val- 
ley was the Eagle company, with a plant near 
Bennett's Wells. The Pacific Coast borax com- 
pany, producing ' ' Twenty Mule Team ' ' borax, ex- 
tensively advertised, took the lead in interest and 
in development, and conferred on F. M. Smith 
the newspaper title of "Borax King." Securing 
title necessitated sending a survey party to the 


scene. This party, headed by Engineer McGilli- 
vray, found that the earlier Grovernment surveys 
were absolutely unreliable. None of the work of 
staking out the townships had actually been done, 
while descriptions were so inaccurate that tracts 
appearing on field notes as level were really 8,000 
feet above sea level and stood at a forty-five- 
degree angle. 

There were no roads worth the name, yet as 
every item of material had to be hauled great dis- 
tances, across a little known desert,* that lack had 
to be supplied. A road more than 160 miles long 
was made, with watering places more than fifty 
miles apart in some cases. One section of it 
crossed the valley on a foundation of solid salt. 
In many places the surface is only a crust over 
underlying mud; in others there are solid ridges. 
On one of these the borax people laid out their 
route, when it became necessary to cross from the 
east side, on which the works were built. The 
marsh was eight miles wide where the crossing 
was made; level, as a whole, but so pitted and 
uneven that it is said a man could not stand flat- 
footed in a single spot on the course. The grading 
tools were sledgehammers. Day after day the 
workmen pounded off the little hillocks and finally 
completed one of the most singular stretches of 
road in the country. 

How to move the bulky output to the railroad 
was a problem that had to be met. It was solved 
by the construction of wagons each of which car- 
ried ten tons or more. The beds measured sixteen 
feet in length, six in depth and four in width. They 


rested on solid steel axles over six inches in diam- 
eter, and allowing for a six-foot tread. The rear 
wheels were seven feet in diameter, and were cov- 
ered with tires an inch thick and eight inches 
wide. The woodwork was in proportion. 

As the ''twenty mule teams" traveled only 
about twenty miles a day, and water holes or 
springs were sometimes fifty miles apart, pro- 
vision had to be made for hauling water. This 
was done by building tank wagons, which hauled 
water to the dry camps among the ten stopping 
places established as part of the system. Springs 
were dug out and improved, and water pipes laid. 

In the hottest weather, mid-day travel was im- 
possible. Hauling was done at night, or the road 
was temporarily abandoned. Five teams were 
kept on the road, each taking twenty days for the 
round trip to and from the railroad. 

One of the details of recovering borax is cook- 
ing the crude material in huge vats. Maintaining 
the fires strips the surrounding country of the 
sagebrush, which is most convenient for fuel. In 
Death Valley the fuel problem was of rather more 
seriousness than in some other places. The drug, 
once selling by the ounce, lowered in price with 
the increased supply provided by that and other 
discoveries. Other deposits more economical in 
working were found by "Borax" Smith's and 
Coleman interests. All these things contributed 
to the closing down of those works. 

Death VaUey has yet a large part to play in 
affairs, and large contributions to make for the 
world's welfare. Railroads now penetrate almost 



to the sink itself, and in every direction, not far 
from its borders, industrial development is push- 
ing forward. There are probably more men at 
work in that general region than ever before in 
its history, except during the Greenwater rush. 
Exploration goes on and new finds are being 







Almost as early as the establishment of a per- 
manent population in Inyo County there began to 
be talk of a railroad connection to the southward. 
In December, 1870, a company was incorporated 
to build a road from Wilmington, Los Angeles 
County, to Wickenburg, Arizona, with a branch 
to Owens Valley. This line was to be of 30-inch 
gauge. The project ended as have many later 
plans, in talk. 

With the growth of Cerro Gordo, the people of 
Los Angeles began to appreciate that Inyo might 
become a valuable factor in their affairs. Com- 
pletion of the railroad betw^een that city and San 
Pedro, in November, 1869, opened a route which, 
though distant, was the one utilized for Inyo 
freights to and from San Francisco for several 
years. Ores and supplies were hauled by teams 
between Los Angeles and Owens Valley, and the 
volume of business done was pleasing to the 
southern town. The Los Angeles and Indepen- 



dence railroad was promoted by Senator John P. 
Jones, ex-Governor Downey and others. A fran- 
chise bill was introduced in the Assembly by 
James E. Parker, of Inyo, and in the spring of 
1873 it became law. It granted to the company 
the right to collect eight cents per mile for fare 
and ten cents per ton mile for freight. At least 
$20,000 was to be expended on the project within 
twelve months. Subscription books were opened 
in Los Angeles, and half of the $2,200,000 capital 
stock was subscribed at once. 

The chief engineer of the project made two 
preliminary surveys. One was via San Bernar- 
dino, and was the more favorable of the two in 
grades and expense. Its grading was figured to 
cost $321,400. The San Fernando route was the 
shorter. Estimated cost of a standard gauge road, 
laid with forty-five-pound iron, complete, was put 
at $11,400 a mile; three-foot gauge, thirty-five- 
pound iron, $10,000 a mile; strap rail, $5,400 a 
mile; wooden stringers, no rails, $4,233 a mile. 
Narrow-gauge railroads were then coming into 
favor and that suggestion met no opposition. As 
may rightfully be guessed, however, the idea of 
strap-iron rails did not commend itself, particu- 
larly to those acquainted with the fashion in which 
* ' snakeheads " on early railroads sometimes rose 
up to punch through car bottoms. The wooden 
rail idea was the touch that forecasted the proj- 
ect's finish. Eighteen miles of real track was laid 
from Los Angeles, but in another direction, and 
in time became part of the Southern Pacific sys- 
tem. The company continued to exist and to make 


occasional reports of investigations for several 
years before its final demise. 

The limited agriculture of Owens Valley fell 
short of ability to supply demands, and in conse- 
quence prices were high for all such produce. This 
was some offset for the enormous freight rates 
that prevailed ; for while every importation paid a 
freight tariff of five to seven cents a pound, the 
producer who contracted his barley in the field at 
four cents a pound, and his hay sometimes as high 
as $50 a ton, got some return from the freighting 
company, which had to buy produce to feed the 
hundreds of animals used in freighting. 

None of those old-time freight bills are avail- 
able, but an indication of them is given by a con- 
tract made between the freighters and Camp 
Independence authorities for delivery of freight 
from San Francisco at $5.96 per one hundred 
pounds during the summer months and $6.96 dur- 
ing the winter. 

While some teaming was done from Wads- 
worth, Nevada, on the Central Pacific, the bulk of 
Inyo shipments came and went the southern way. 
Ventura, Santa Barbara and Bakersfield all in- 
terested themselves to become Inyo's shipping 
point, but Los Angeles secured most of the trade. 
The most important factor in pioneer transporta- 
tion, and in fact the first regular and dependable 
service, was the Cerro Gordo freighting company, 
organized in 1873 primarily to transport Cerro 
Gordo bullion and supplies. Nadeau, its chief 
organizer, secured a three-year contract from 
Belshaw & Beaudry, and put his business on a 


thorough schedule. The teaming time was regu- 
lated almost to the hour, on a basis of twenty-one 
or twenty-two days for the round trip. Stations, 
watering places and camps were provided as the 
route demanded. Los Angeles papers stated that 
eighty wagons had been built for the company; 
fifty-six were in regular service. They were huge 
affairs; while there is no available definite state- 
ment of capacity, each would hold the greater 
part of the load of a narrow-gauge box car. 

The company acquired the Bessie Brady, a lit- 
tle steamer that had been launched June 17, 1872, 
to help in moving bullion. The boat, eighty-five 
feet long and sixteen feet beam, was propellor- 
driven by a twenty-horsepower engine. The cost 
was about $10,000. D. H. Ferguson and James 
Brady, superintendent of the smelting company 
operating at Swansea, were the owners. She was 
named for Brady's little daughter, who broke the 
regulation wine bottle over the bow at the rather 
elaborate ceremony attending the vessel's launch- 
ing. The Bessie Brady appears to have been the 
first vessel for commercial purposes on western 
inland lakes. Making a round trip daily from 
Swansea (three miles north of the present town 
of Keeler) to Cartago, at the foot of the lake, and 
carrying seventy tons of freight, the steamer per- 
formed service cheaper than had previously been 
incurred in hauling one-tenth of the weight be- 
tween the same terminals in five days by teams. 
A 300-foot wharf was built at Swansea, on a site 
now left high and dry by the lake's recession. 
Bullion was the bulk of the freight taken south- 


ward, and supplies for the mines and for Owens 
Valley formed the return cargoes. Valley freights 
were discharged at Ferguson's Landing, at the 
northwestern curve of the lake. The steamer bore 
an honorable share in the business of the time. 
She was burned some years after her retirement 
from service. 

Another steamer, the Mollie Stevens, was 
launched in 1877 for transporting lumber and 
charcoal across the lake for Cerro Gordo. Her 
engine was one that had been used on the United 
States vessel Pensacola. Her part in general 
transportation matters was small. 

The Cerro Gordo freighting company aban- 
doned the Inyo field in 1881. In that year the 
Carson & Colorado railroad was completed to 
Belleville, Nevada, and that point became the 
transshipping headquarters for Inyo freight. It 
so continued until the road was built across the 
White Mountains to Benton and on into Owens 
Valley in 1883. D. 0. Mills was the money power 
behind this railroad. In the belief that its ship- 
ping advantages would stimulate ore shipments 
from the many claims along the White Mountains, 
the base of which it skirted to the terminus at 
Keeler, the management resisted all inducements 
to lay its track through the more settled western 
side of Owens Valley, touching the established 
towns. It is probable that anticipated greater 
cost of maintenance on the west side. had some 
effect in shaping the company's determination. 

Candelaria had then become a Nevada mining 
camp of importance, and drew on Owens Valley 


for much of its supplies. Tlie railroad brought 
the Candelaria region nearer, but whether the val- 
ley materially gained from its building, so far as 
the Candelaria market was concerned, is de- 
batable. Previously teams had found occupation 
in hauling to the mining camps, and Owens Valley 
had practically a monopoly of the business of fur- 
nishing many kinds of supplies. The railroad 
eliminated the teaming, and at the same time ef- 
fectively bridged the gap between that mining 
camp and other producing regions. 

But that was only one disadvantage, insofar 
as it was a disadvantage, against which were to 
be set many gains. Nevada capital came to Inyo 
with the railroad, and forthwith began different 
steps toward developing resources that had been 
latent or wholly unknown. Among them may be 
noted the opening of the Inyo marble quarries, 
the beginning of the soda reclamation industry at 
Owens Lake, and contributions to land develop- 
ment. It would be superfluous to enumerate the 
many advantages from the opening of railroad 
communication to a section as isolated as this had 
been up to that time. 

A little more than ten years later the Southern 
Pacific took over the Carson & Colorado. The 
ever-present hope of a southern railroad was en- 
couraged. Collis P. Huntington, head of the 
Southern Pacific, decided to complete the line 
through this valley, connecting the transconti- 
nental systems to the south and the north. Before 
he proceeded, death claimed him, and his succes- 
sor held different views regarding the railroad. 



When the Los Angeles aqueduct required trans- 
portation of huge quantities of freight, the long- 
wanted road was built, and its last spike was 
driven at Owenyo October 18, 1910. Through that 
connection, Owens Valley and all of Inyo has 
been brought into closer connection with the nat- 
ural marketplace, Los Angeles. 

Of other surveys, of the organization of a com- 
pany which went to the extent of securing rights 
of way from Bishop south through the valley, and 
of fruitless endeavors to secure the location of a 
line of rails nearer to the valley towns, this record 
need not speak. In this same connection, a com- 
pany was organized to build a branch to connect 
Bishop with the main line at Laws. It obtained 
rights of way and graded its roadbed, but no rails 
have been laid on it. 

One of the most important events in the his- 
tory of Inyo communication will be the completion 
of El Camino Sierra, that portion of the State 
highway system lying east of the Sierra Nevada 
mountains. That work moves but slowly, but the 
day is not far distant when fine automobile thor- 
oughfares shall stretch to the north and the south 
to connections with others of equal merit. So 
much has been done, when this is written, that the 
individual can reach Los Angeles to the south, 
Tahoe or Eeno to the north, or Yosemite Valley, 
via the magnificent Tioga route, in a day's travel, 
covering distances which in primitive times were 
journeys of three or four times as long, or even 
more. Fostered by the invention and universal 
use of the automobile, the good road movement 


has grown wondrously everywhere, and it might 
have been that these advantages would have come 
to Inyo had it done nothing more aggressive than 
to merely wait. It is wholly fitting, however, to 
note that local energy has played a part in ad- 
vancing the cause of better highways, and that 
out of Inyo came an organization, the Inyo Good 
Road Club, which was responsible for the early 
favor of the State being given to the creation of a 
north and south highway east of the Sierras. 



A land-grabbing scheme of the first magnitude 
threatened to dispossess Owens Valley homestead- 
ers in 1873. 

California was then having a ran of what were 
termed ''swamp land steals." Congress had 
passed a law providing for the survey and segre- 
gation of swamp and overflowed lands. Each State 
was permitted to make its own regulations as to 
the disposition of such lands within its borders. 
Claimants were unrestricted as to the area they 
could obtain on a suitable showing as to its phys- 
ical condition. California was a field ripe for har- 
vesting by monopolists, and history shows that 
the opportunity was not neglected. Spanish land 
grants had provided the original confusion, and 
railroad subsidies and unwise legislation made 
matters worse. Legislatures and ofiicers were 
named in corporation headquarters in many 
cases. The great central valleys were hardly bet- 
ter than stock ranges. Concentrated wealth, be- 



sides being in close touch with opportunities, was 
able to lay claim to great domains and wait for 
future returns, while the settlers the State needed 
could not afford to court starvation on the 
available tracts. An example of how the situation 
worked out was in Kern County, where the hold- 
ings of thirteen persons amounted to 488,000 
acres, and seven others held 65,000 acres or more. 

The United States Land Office was moved from 
Aurora, Nevada, to Independence in June, 1873. 
Josiah Earl was nominated to be Register, and 
P. A. Chalf ant was named as Receiver. The latter 
appointment was unsought, and when its bene- 
ficiary learned that he had loeen suggested by po- 
litical elements with which he was not in accord 
he promptly resigned. Earl took full charge of 
the office, though his appointment had not been 
confirmed by the Senate. 

In July, 1873, several persons, prominent 
among them Mr. Earl and W. S. Powell, a Tulare 
County surveyor, filed numerous applications for 
the survey and purchase of all or parts of 221 
sections of land in Owens Valley, extending from 
Round Valley to Owens Lake, and involving 
133,000 acres. Without going into minor details 
of description, suffice it to state that practically 
every township in the valley was touched in some 
degree or as a whole by the claim. Applicants 
made oath that the lands were swamp or over- 
flowed, though most of the land so claimed was 
covered with sagebrush, and much of it would not 
come under even the liberal General Land Office 
ruling that ''land too wet for irrigation at the 


usual seeding time, though later requiring irriga- 
tion" should be subject to sale as swamp. 

Applicants further certified that lands sought 
were unoccupied, while the fact was that 'on at 
least ninety-four of the claimed sections homes 
had been established and the beginnings of farm- 
ings made. It is probable that the occupants ul- 
timately would have legally withstood any at- 
tempts at their eviction; at the time they would 
have done it by force of arms. Yet with the 
examples they could cite in which aggregated 
wealth had overborne justice, some of them were 
none too sanguine on that point. At the best, the 
claims promised wearisome legislation and ex- 
pense which none could afford. 

Proceedings had been so well masked that 
three months elapsed between the filing of the 
swamp land claims and knowledge of them reach- 
ing the people of the valley. The Inyo Indepen- 
dent, of which Mr. Chalfant, who had refused to 
serve as Land Office Receiver, was editor, ascer- 
tained and revealed the facts. Indignation swept 
the valley. Public meetings were held, and every 
citizen who had any outside acquaintanceship ex- 
erted himself to the utmost to upset the sinister 
plan. The law required that action on such appli- 
cations should be suspended for six months, dur- 
ing which time protests might be filed with the 
land authorities. Half of the period had passed, 
but three months still remained to the people. The 
vigorous campaign made caused suspension of ac- 
tion pending further investigation, and two 
months later, in March, 1874, the applications 
were rejected. 


An effort was made to secure the conviction of 
Powell on a charge of perjury but it did not suc- 
ceed. A petition for Earl's removal was generally 
signed throughout the valley. His appointment 
had not been confirmed by the Senate, though he 
continued to discharge the duties of the Register- 
ship. Senators Sargent, of California, and Jones, 
of Nevada, Governor Newton Booth, of Califor- 
nia, and others of less prominence took an active 
part in opposing Earl's confirmation. The matter 
had not come to a Senate vote when in May, 1874, 
he settled it by resigning. 

Let us anticipate the passage of nearly a dec- 
ade to refer to another plan for monopolizing a 
large part of Owens Valley, though in the later 
case open purchase was proposed. There would 
have been, naturally, the accompaniment of many 
sales forced by circumstances. This was in 1882, 
when multimillionaires W. S. Hobart and Alvinza 
Hayward conceived the idea of securing the area 
noted on maps as Bishop Creek Valley and mak- 
ing it into a stock range. James Cross, a mining 
man long connected with Nevada and California 
affairs, was their representative. George M. Gill, 
afterward Superior Judge of this county, was 
their attorney. Theodore T. Cook, a Bishop book- 
keeper, was sent to Independence to list the as- 
sessed value of all properties in the area desired, 
and to investigate titles. Hobart and Hayward 
planned to offer twenty-five per cent above as- 
sessed values, and believed that while many resi- 
dents would be unwilling to sell they would be 
virtually compelled to if a sufficient proportion of 


their neighbors sold. Cook's investigations of 
different kinds showed that the probable cost of 
carrying out the enterprise would be $1,500,000. 
Whether this was larger than the projectors were 
willing to stand, or whatever the reason, no 
further steps were taken. 

An important issue of the early 70 's was the 
'* no-fence law." As in most agricultural com- 
munities, and particularly those as new as Owens 
Valley then was, many settlers were without 
means with which to fence their holdings. Barbed 
wire, now in common use, was new to this market, 
and its cost was twenty-five cents a pound, and 
rough lumber sold at $55 or more per thousand 
feet. While the ranchers were starting their crops, 
grazing was also a leading industry. An item of 
1873 said that there were 200,000 head of cattle, 
horses and sheep in the mountains around Mount 
Whitney, and many of them wintered in Owens 
Valley. The driving of herds through the valley 
to their summer ranges often meant the destruc- 
tion of growing crops along the route, where the 
tracts were usually unfenced. Considerable agi- 
tation attended the passage of a law that placed 
responsibility for destruction of crops on the 
stockmen, whether the land was or was not fenced. 
Nevertheless, a special act of that kind was passed 
for Inyo County, and a few other counties re- 
ceived the same consideration. 

Columns of newspaper space were used in a 
controversy over the identity of the real Mount 
Whitney. Scientists were in error until 1873, as 
the uninformed person w^ould be now if while in 


Lone Pine, nearest to the peak, he were asked to 
point it out. Clarence King climbed ' ' old" Mount 
Whitney in 1871, and later came all the way from 
New York to make another ascent, ascertaining 
that he had been mistaken. John Muir and others 
of note took a hand in the debate. The first ascent 
of the real Mount Whitney was made August 18, 
1873, by A. H. Johnson, J. J. Lucas and C. D. 
Begole, who built a monument on it. Prof. Brewer 
had discovered and named the mountain in 1864, 
and King at that time had climbed to within 300 
feet of the top. Afterward he and others gave the 
name to a peak several miles southeast, believing 
it to be the one he had ascended from the west. 
*'01d" Mount Whitney bore the name for three 
or four years, while there were attempts to give 
the higher summit some other name. *' Fisher- 
man's Peak," ''Dome of the Continent," and 
''Dome of Inyo" all had supporters. An ambitious 
politician sought to secure permanency for his 
name by introducing a bill in the Legislature offi- 
cially naming the mountain "Fowler Peak." It 
was finally the secondary mountain that received 
a different name. 

The out-of-the-wayness of Inyo and Mono 
Counties in those days was illustrated by the en- 
actment of a law permitting, in these counties, the 
employment of public school teachers regardless 
of their possessing certificates of qualification. 
Being sometimes unable to secure certificated 
teachers, the districts were permitted to enlist 
anyone whom they believed to be able to instruct 
the rising generation. The law was repealed in 


In more modem days, ''the big earthquake" 
seems to mark almost the beginning of history in 
Inyo. Such an idea would have been scorned by 
the Benevolent Society of Owens Valley Pioneers, 
organized in March, 1874, for a brief career. Only 
those who had been in the county prior to the last 
battle at Owens Lake, in January, 1865, were 
eligible to membership. The officers were Patrick 
Reddy, president ; J. B. Rowley and Thomas Pass- 
more, vice presidents; J. J. Moore, secretary; 
R. A. Loomis, corresponding secretary; T. F. A. 
Connelly, treasurer; John A. Lank, D. D. Gunni- 
son and John Lubken, directors. Other members 
included John Lentell, V. Gr. Thompson, James 
Shepherd, John Shepherd, John B. White, 
"William J. Lake, C. D. Begole, Joseph Fernbach, 
Thomas W. Hill, John C. Willett, Thomas May, 
William L. Moore, George W. Brady, Paul W. 
Bennett, Jacob Vagt, John R. Hughes, and prob- 
ably several other ''taboose-eaters" not listed in 
available records. 

An incident of 1873 was the rejection of elec- 
tion returns from Round Valley, Bishop Creek, 
Fish Springs and Lone Pine precincts, for infor- 
malities too gross for even the easy-going authori- 
ties of that period. What difference, if any, it 
made in the result of the county election is not 
now known, nor does the action appear to have 
stirred up any special comment. 

A different sort of election was held Septem- 
ber 18, 1874, in Bishop Creek and Round Valley. 
The Independent Order of Good Templars had 
lodges in Bishop Creek, Independence and Camp 



Independence — the latter composed entirely of 
soldiers — and their members had much to do with 
solidifying sentiment against the absolutely wide- 
open conditions then general in Inyo as well as 
elsewhere. Local option was submitted to vote in 
the precincts named. Bishop Creek voted eighty- 
two against license, twenty-six for; Eound Valley 
was nineteen against, six for ; totals, one hundred 
and one against license ; thirty-two for. This pio- 
neer housecleaning effort was in vain ; the Super- 
visors discovered that the election should have 
been brought in the Supervisor district, and that 
the Bishop Supervisor district included part of 
Big Pine precinct, where no election was held. At 
that election, as often later, the ladies took an 
active part by serving a feast during the day to 

March 1, 1875, the first six-times-a-week mail 
service between Owens Valley and Aurora, then 
the nearest communication, was begun. Up to 
then the settlers had been fortunate to get word 
from the outer world, considerably delayed, as 
often as three times a week, and sometimes no bet- 
ter than weekly. 

Through all that period county finances were 
in deplorable condition, scrip selling as low as 
forty cents on the dollar. Its fluctuations offered 
a field for some small speculation, and citizens 
who could spare the money made its buying prof- 
itable. The county did not profit much from such 
conditions. An example was a bridge contract on 
which the bidder's offer was to do the work for 
$2,000 if paid in gold or $4,866.66 if paid in script. 


Orders for abandonment of Camp Indepen- 
dence were received by Captain Alexander B. 
MacGowan on July 9, 1877, and before sunrise the 
following morning, the garrison, Company D, 12th 
Infantry, began the long march to the railroad 
south, later to go to the front as part of General 
Miles' force in the Nez Perce war in Idaho. 

Departure of the soldiers was witnessed with 
deep regret. Citizens felt that the Indian situa- 
tion was not wholly free from possibilities of 
trouble. Reports occasionally came in of friction 
in the desert regions. To the credit of Inyo In- 
dians be it said that as a rule it developed either 
that the reports were baseless, that white men 
were chiefly at fault in the matter, or that the 
troublemakers were renegades, outlawed by Pi- 
utes as well as whites. 

A movement was started at Bishop for organ- 
izing a company of the State National Guard, as 
a precautionary measure. It was found to be 
barred by reason of an already full list of author- 
ized companies. Other efforts of the same kind 
were made in after years, with equal lack of State 

D Company had been at the post four years. 
In the beginning it was made up of a hard lot of 
individuals. On two different occasions they had 
clashes with citizens. One of these occurred on 
the night of December 31, 1873. A party of sol- 
diers went into Independence, between two and 
three miles from the barracks, and made a general 
round of serenading. During the evening their 
potations at the town's bars were numerous. 


Toward midnight they approached a hall wherein 
a dance was in progress. The doorkeeper refused 
to admit them, on account of their intoxicated con- 
dition. They insisted, and the first comer was 
''sent to grass" by the doorkeeper's fist. A gen- 
eral and wholesale melee ensued. Fence pickets 
were the worst weapons used, and many bruises 
were inflicted before the affair ended. 

Those men were but part of the company, how- 
ever. The more sober element soon afterward or- 
ganized a lodge of Good Templars at the post, and 
pridefully sustained it during their stay. The 
toughs deserted or finished their time, and re- 
placements improved the general average. When 
the post was abandoned there were many civilian 
friends to bid the departing soldiers farewell. 
How the company improved was shown by a 
guardhouse average of one man incarcerated each 
day during 1873, one each four days in 1874, one 
each thirty days in 1875. 

It was a telegraph operator in the company 
who promoted the first telegraph line built in the 
county, in the fall of 1876. It ran between Inde- 
pendence and the fort. Its construction tried the 
ingenuity of the builders; its wire ranged from 
the finest copper to heavy iron; its insulators 
were mostly bottle necks — of which there was no 
scarcity. Only the instruments and batteries 
would have been approved on a regular system, 
but the line worked. 

Early history and occupation of the post have 
been detailed in the chapters of Indian War his- 
tory, up to the arrival of Company C, Nevada Vol- 


unteers, in April, 1865. The valley had been with- 
out military protection during the latter part of 
the Indian troubles, and it was the citizens, not 
the soldiers, who inflicted final punishment on the 
natives. Nevertheless the army uniform always 
excited lively interest among the Piutes. The ar- 
rival of a new body of troops at Camp Indepen- 
dence or a march from there by any considerable 
detachment invariably caused anxious apprehen- 
sion and inquiry by Indian residents. 

From the spring of 1865 to the final abandon- 
ment the place was always garrisoned. When the 
volunteers were mustered out, Col. John D. Dev- 
ens' command of one company of cavalry and one 
of infantry succeeded them. Next came Captain 
(then Brevet-Major) Harry C. Egbert, with Com- 
pany B, 12th Infantry. Egbert was in command 
when the fort's buildings were tumbled over by 
the earthquake in 1872. When the rebuilt bar- 
racks were completed the soldiers gave a grand 
open-house entertainment for the whole country- 
side. Among the decorations on this occasion 
were shields bearing the names of Civil War bat- 
tles in which the company, including many of the 
veterans who were still under its colors, had par- 
ticipated. As the list included Gaines ' Mill, Cedar 
Mountain, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancel- 
lorsville, Gettysburg, Wilderness, Petersburg, 
Malvern Hill, Cold Harbor, Five Forks, and 
others of less historic prominence, and the com- 
pany was also at Appomattox at the closing scene, 
it will be seen that B Company had a record in 
which its pride was justified. 


The last of this garrison, led by Lieut. Dove, 
just promoted to a captaincy, left for San Diego 
June 30, 1873, and thereafter found occupation 
protecting Arizona telegraph lines from maraud- 
ing Apaches. Egbert, who was a lawyer of ability, 
resigned his commission, for a time engaged in 
practice as a partner of Patrick Reddy at Inde- 
pendence, and finally went to New York. On the 
outbreak of the Spanish War he tendered his ser- 
vices to the Government, served through the Cu- 
ban campaign, and was sent to the Philippines 
wearing the two stars of a major general. He was 
killed while leading a charge against the enemy. To 
his widow, doubly stricken by this and the insanity 
of her son soon after he had received an army com- 
mission. Congress voted a general's pension. Pio- 
neer Inyoites felt a special and personal interest 
in one who had taken much part in local affairs, 
and who was designated by an appreciative friend 
as ' ' the gentle, brave and gallant Harry Egbert. ' ' 

MacGowan's command arrived five days be- 
fore the departure of Dove and his company. Hav- 
ing no other opportunity for activity, MacGowan 
was ever ready to go a bit beyond the strictest 
construction of regulations in making his men a 
force for law and order. At one time his company 
was marched into Independence to protect the 
county jail against an expected lynching attack, 
which, however, did not materialize. At another, 
he took the field in pursuit of bandit Vasquez. 
A detachment was once sent to Round Valley as 
an object lesson to insolent Indians. Many scouts 
were made, and many tables of distance measure- 
ments were compiled by the company. 


On abandonment of the post, settlers in the 
vicinity were permitted to obtain government title 
to the farms on which their homes had b6en made 
for many years. Previously, bills had been in- 
troduced in Congress at one time or another to 
meet the case, but no relief had been granted. 

A movement was also inaugurated to make 
the well planted and beautiful post grounds the 
site of a county high school. It would be flattery 
to the California high school system of that day 
to call it crude ; it was practically non-existent, ex- 
cept as each community might devise ways and 
means of its own. It was proposed that the Gov- 
ernment be asked to deed the Camp Independence 
grounds to Inyo County, for the purpose men- 
tioned, and a bill to that effect was introduced in 
the House of Representatives. Introducing bills 
in Congress is one of the easiest things that many 
Representatives do ; the proposition never got be- 
yond that stage, and was soon forgotten. 









In the spring of 1885 a stock show was given 
by William Rowan, at Bishop. This led to the 
formation of an association for giving county 
fairs, the first of which was a one-day display on 
October 1, 1885. It was so successful that the 
county's representative in the State Assembly, 
A. J. Gould, was asked to further a bill to include 
the counties of Alpine, Mono and Inyo in a dis- 
trict to receive State aid for agricultural fair pur- 
poses. The bill became law, and an appropriation 
was made for its benefit. The Bishop organiza- 
tion was ready for business, having incorporated 
and bought grounds. While its recommendations 
for the fair directorate were being considered, a 
representative from Independence secured the 
Governor's appointments of a board favorable to 
locating the site of the fair at that place. The 
Eastern Slope Land and Stock Association, as the 
Bishop organization was called, maintained its 



stand, while the Eighteenth District Fair Associa- 
tion was also active. For several years rival fairs 
were maintained. Finally an adjustment was 
made, and thereafter fairs were alternated be- 
tween Bishop, Independence and Big Pine. When 
State aid was no longer given the district organ- 
ization languished. Bishop continued to hold fairs 
on a local subscription basis, a custom which, un- 
der one name or another, is still maintained. 

The Nevada Mission Conference of 1885 was 
held in Bishop, the first of a number of such gath- 
erings convening there or at Big Pine. Its prin- 
cipal local effect came from the adoption of a reso- 
lution declaring for the establishment in Bishop 
of a school of higher education. The institution 
was erected on a subscription basis, and com- 
pleted after a term of the school, named the Inyo 
Academy, had been held in the Methodist Church. 
The cornerstone was laid September 30, 1886, and 
the building, at that time ''the largest and finest 
in the State east of the Sierras," was occupied 
the following year. Several classes graduated 
under instruction of the teachers, who were paid 
by the church. The control of the school was in 
the hands of a board of local citizens, and it was 
never a denominational institution in any way. 
However, the fact of the church's fostering care 
had caused some of the original subscribers to 
repudiate their subscriptions, resulting in litiga- 
tion; and the same objection was used to hold the 
attendance at an unprofitable level. The Academy 
ran at a financial loss until the Conference, 
unable longer to carry it and to care for the debt 


which hung over it, abandoned the effort. It was 
the beginning of higher education on this slope of 
the mountains. Its local supporters, principally, 
were in the lead of advocates of something better 
for the young people ; and when it became obvious 
that the Academy could not continue, a plan for 
a high school under State laws was launched. At 
an election held February 25, 1899, it was de- 
feated, 145 to 121. The matter rested thus for 
two years, during which there was further hope 
of the Academy reviving. This proving vain, in 
September, 1901, a public meeting was called and 
nearly $3,000 was subscribed as a guarantee fund 
for the payment of a high school teacher. School 
was opened in a room of the Bishop grammar 
school, and received a good attendance. A new 
campaign was begun, and March 29, 1902, the 
Bishop union high school was established by a 
vote of 176 to 72. Having set down the real be- 
ginnings of a higher education in this region, 
there is small need to detail the subsequent pur- 
chase of the Academy property and the growth 
of the school. An effort was made, at one time, 
to vote bonds for a $40,000 building; the school's 
backers were disappointed at its defeat, which, in 
view of the almost metropolitan plant which has 
since become necessary, they now accept as a 
providential result. A $200,000 structure is now 
in use. 

Big Pine was but little later in establishing a 
high school, and Independence and Lone Pine did 
likewise. Each district has shown its complete 
sincerity by voting bonds sufficient to provide 


housing and other facilities in accordance with 
the advanced development of educational ideas. 
This is true of grammar schools as of high. 

Another step in accordance with modern find- 
ings was the consolidation of Warm Springs and 
Sunland districts with Bishop, at an election June 
14, 1921. It is probable that the same advanced 
move will ere long be made in other districts of 
Owens Valley. 

The beginning of Owens Valley's systematic 
development as a dairy region dates from 1892, 
when the Inyo Creamery was incorporated and a 
plant constructed at Bishop. Of itself, the ven- 
ture was not a success, due to mistakes of man- 
agement rather than to any other cause; it was 
immediately followed, however, by installation of 
private plants of the same kind, which succeeded. 
Ultimately the business passed to a re-incorpo- 
rated company, which under skillful management 
has won an established and leading place among 
Inyo enterprises. 

Fire broke out in a vacant building in Inde- 
pendence on the afternoon of Wednesday, June 
30, 1886. No fire-fighting apparatus was available, 
and the flames ran unchecked until thirty-eight 
buildings in the central part of the county seat 
had been swept away. Practically all business es- 
tablishments, some residences and the county 
buildings were lost. The total damage was esti- 
mated at $160,000. 

Though the courthouse was burned, nearly all 
county records were saved through the presence 
of mind and the energy of two ladies, Mrs. R. L. 


Peeler and Mrs. J. S. McGee, who carried books 
and documents to safety during the hours that 
the men of the place were doing what they could 
to end the damage. 

County officers soon established themselves in 
whatever locations were available, and county af- 
fairs went on without interruption. 

An effort to move the county seat to Bishop 
was started. Petitions for an election were 
strongly signed and presented to the Board of 
Supervisors. District Attorney Laird advised 
the Board that though the headings of the differ- 
ent signed sheets of paper were identical, the fact 
that all signatures were not on one and the same 
sheet would prevent the whole from being consid- 
ered as ^'a petition" within the meaning of the 
law. As no single sheet contained anything like 
enough names to justify an election. Supervisors 
refused the petitions, and proceedings for rebuild- 
ing at Independence were begun. On October 7th 
a contract was let to M. E. Gilmore for erecting 
the new structure for $11,458, a price afterward 
reduced, through changes, to $10,000. The build- 
ing was accepted February 10, 1887. 

County seat removal had come up and had 
been disposed of before, usually on some question 
of signatures on petitions. Later, a campaign of 
that kind was begun by people of Big Pine, and 
submitted to vote at the general election in 1908. 
It was lost by a vote of 670 against to 456 for. 

From the coming of the white man, one of the 
chief sources of trouble with the Piutes was their 
securing liquor. In two instances at Bishop, this 


evil became so pronounced and so utterly beyond 
the law's control that citizens organized inde- 
pendently to cope with the condition. One organi- 
zation known as the "C. P. S." — Committee of 
Public Safety — destroyed liquor stocks found in 
houses occupied by Chinese, and briefly improved 
the situation. The most thorough step in this di- 
rection, however, was by an organization known 
as the "145." This body included nearly all the 
prominent citizens of Bishop. Its name was in 
imitation of the famous ''601" of Virginia City 
fame; as a matter of fact, the assumed numerals 
more than doubled the actual number of men in 
the movement. It held meetings and deliberated 
over the methods to pursue in getting rid of of- 
fenders. The worst of these was a man named 
Coronado, who held forth in a cabin arranged so 
that he passed out his goods to buyers without 
being seen, and never when more than one was 
present. He maintained an effective watch by 
means of a flock of dogs, whose alarm gave warn- 
ings when necessary. Law officers made repeated 
attempts to catch him; but while moral certainty 
could be confirmed, the exacting requirements of 
legal proof were not available. Coronado was 
notified by the spokesman of the 145 that he was 
to wind up his affairs and leave. He asked for 
and was given more time. Finally patience was 
exhausted, and the 145 resolved on starting him. 
Late one night in midsummer of 1901 he was play- 
ing cards in the saloon where he bought his liquor 
stock, and was called to the door by a committee- 
man who spoke Spanish. He was seized by a com- 


petent force, and a pistol that he drew was pre- 
vented from doing damage by a 145 thumb placed 
beneath its hammer. He was taken to his home, 
his horse hitched to a buggy in which Coronado 
was placed and with a guard he started off 
through the clear starlit night. He went on across 
the Sierras and did not return. Six other culprits 
left on notice. No drop of blood was shed by the 
145, and its action materially lessened the Indian 
whisky traffic for a long time thereafter. 

This "Land of Little Rain," as styled by a 
former Inyoite, Mary Austin, expands and de- 
velops agriculturally as irrigation facilities are 
extended or better utilized. Earliest settlers found 
ample room for home-making along natural water- 
courses. A decade passed before pioneer farmers 
seriously took up the irrigation of tracts not thus 
easily watered. A ditch from Fish Slough to 
reach lands above Laws was one of the earliest 
of projected and completed smaller private enter- 
prises. The McNally Ditch, serving the Laws 
vicinity, the Bishop Creek Ditch, for tracts be- 
tween Bishop and Owens River, the Owens River 
and Big Pine Canal, for Big Pine lands, and a 
ditch for irrigation in the vicinity of Lone Pine 
were all projected during 1877 and 1878. The 
first and second were slowly but steadily pushed 
to completion by the labor of the projectors. The 
Big Pine enterprise, after the expenditure of con- 
siderable effort, remained idle until in 1902 it 
was reinvigorated and finished the following year. 
That for Lone Pine was never built. Various other 
enterprises, to the number of about twenty, have 


been begun since those initial undertakings. A 
map of the whole array shows the Owens River 
Canal, begun in 1887 and covering the western side 
of northern Owens Valley, and the Inyo Canal, 
starting the same year and irrigating tracts east 
of the river and nearly as far south as Lone Pine, 
as the most widely separated co-operative enter- 
prises. The Inyo Canal, however, was obliterated 
by the Los Angeles purchase of the lands which it 
was built to irrigate, that purchase closing out 
a colonization enterprise launched in 1884 and 
1885, under the name of the AVilliam Penn Colony, 
to develop lands in the vicinity of Owenyo. 

There were many lean years in Owens Valley. 
Decline of Cerro Gordo, Panamint and Darwin, 
and gradual slackening of other mining campa 
within the territory accessible by teaming from 
the valley had brought a stagnation not offset in 
any other way. The building of the railroad in 
1883 had not greatly bettered the situation, for 
only a few varieties of products could profitably 
withstand its long and time-consuming service and 
high freight charges. A further depressing fac- 
tor came in the rapid fall of the price of silver, 
causing the suspension of mining properties 
which had been operated on a small scale. 

A new era in Inyo began with the growth of the 
newer mining camps of southwestern Nevada. In 
the summer of 1900 Mr. and Mrs. James L. Butler 
discovered the croppings of the Mizpah mine, the 
beginning of Tonopah. Goldfield's discovery and 
growth soon followed. The rapid upbuilding of 
those large camps gave a fresh impetus to mining 


throughout the region, an advance in which Inyo 
districts shared. Far more important in effect 
was the creation of nearby cash markets which 
demanded the best efforts of the agricultural lands 
of Owens Valley. 

In April, 1902, citizens of Bishop organized the 
Bishop Light and Power Company to supply local 
needs — the county's first electric enterprise. Its 
plant, starting in September of that year, was suc- 
cessfully managed until absorbed by the Nevada- 
California Power Company. This latter concern, 
backed by Colorado capital, saw in the growth of 
Tonopah and Goldfield a market for power, and 
in the tumbling torrents of Sierra streams an op- 
portunity for its cheap production. Power loca- 
tions on Bishop Creek had long been held by dif- 
ferent locators, who had merely renewed their 
filings from time to time. Those sites were se- 
cured by the new enterprises. Generating plants 
were built, and transmission lines extended, first 
into Nevada, then southerly almost to the Mexican 
line, until now the longest power lines in the world 
carry the energy of Bishop Creek from Mono 
County on the north into Arizona and Imperial 
Valley on the south. 

In addition to buying out the locally organized 
power company, the Nevada-California Power 
Company acquired the Hillside Water Company 
holdings. The latter concern had acquired storage 
rights on the creek's headwaters, of value to the 
electric plants. More or less of friction over 
water matters developed; on the one side, the 
farmers who had used Bishop Creek water for 


decades ; on the other, first the Hillside Company, 
then its successors, the power interests. Tempo- 
rary adjustments tided matters over until, unable 
to secure water enough for their crops, a delega- 
tion went to South Lake, or Hillside Reservoir 
as termed by the company, and on June 11, 1919, 
raised the gates sufficiently to release a reasonable 
flow. No property was damaged in the proceed- 
ing. This led to an effort on the company's part 
to enjoin the water users from interference with 
the storage. By agreement, the whole controversy 
was referred to A. E. Chandler, former State Wa- 
ter Commissioner, both sides agreeing to accept 
his decree as final. After an extensive hearing, in 
which practically every water user supplied from 
Bishop Creek was called to testify, arbitrator 
Chandler reached findings substantially sustain- 
ing every contention of the farmers. When this 
is written the final decree has not been made, but 
from the findings it will clearly define and settle 
the issues in dispute. 

The progressive spirit of the people of Bishop, 
who had bettered their condition as circumstances 
permitted, brought about the incorporation of the 
place as a municipality. One of the chief pur- 
poses in view was the creation of a better water 
supply for domestic use and fire protection. A 
census was taken by the Women's Improvement 
Club to determine that the requisite population 
of 500 persons lived within the boundaries set. 
The census-takers managed to list 540. An elec- 
tion was held, and incorporation of the little city 
was voted sixty-three to thirty-six, April 24, 1903. 



W. W. Watterson, F. K. Andrews, George A. 
Clarke, G. L. Albright and J. C. Underwood were 
chosen as the first Trustees, with W. W. Yandell 
as Clerk, D. W. Pitman Marshal, and M. Q. Wat- 
terson Treasurer. Proceeding with the utmost 
care, the board did not complete its arrangements 
for a water bond election until the following sum- 
mer. On September 6, 1904, bonds to the amount 
of $44,000 were voted for the construction of 
water and sewer systems, the three propositions 
receiving from 119 to 125 affirmative votes to 
6 to 8 negatives. Many other advances have 
come since — further improvements, the creation 
of first a local telephone system, then its exten- 
sion through the valley, then connection with the 
outside world; the establishment, March, 1902, of 
the Inyo County Bank, as the first in Owens Val- 
ley, and subsequently of others; and different 
items each of importance, but only incidental as 
compared to the first daring step of assuming 
municipal responsibilities and heavy outlays by 
a handful of people. 

How the people of the northern part of the 
county had voted to close the saloons, under local 
option laws, in 1874, has already been told. It 
was not until 1896 that another attempt of the 
kind was made through election, the entire county 
being included in the territory which it was pro- 
posed to make ' ' dry. ' ' The ordinance lost by only 
56 votes, but the matter was again allowed to rest, 
until the latter part of 1909. As a result of the 
later agitation, in which all the older communities 
of the county had a part, the County Supervisors 


agreed that they would be governed, in the matter 
of adopting a prohibitory ordinance, by the action 
taken by the town of Bishop. ''Wet or dry" was 
the issue in the municipal election in April, 1910, 
and the dry candidates won by a vote of 200 to 125. 
In anticipation of the result, and subject to pos- 
sible repeal, the county had already adopted a 
similar ordinance, and the adoption of a dry 
ordinance by the Bishop authorities confirmed the 

Under the provisions of a change made in the 
State revenue laws of California adopted in 1910, 
Inyo County was deprived of that part of its in- 
come which came from the taxation of railroads 
and other public service property. Certain pro- 
vision for reimbursement was made by the amend- 
ment itself. Though this lost revenue was right- 
fully due to the county from the State, it was a 
neglected issue until County Auditor Thomas M. 
Kendrick, knowing the facts thoroughly, made its 
collection a personal purpose. While attorneys 
were employed, the writer believes it but just to 
say here that success in the whole matter was 
principally due to Mr. Kendrick. A bill reimburs- 
ing Inyo County to the amount of $100,382 became 
law, the sum being a large part, but not all, of 
the total due. 

With this money on hand, and with a surplus 
in the treasury, the Supervisors felt justified in 
proceeding with the construction of a new court- 
house. A contract for $158,700 was let to William 
McCombs & Son, April 10, 1920. The structure 
has been accepted, and is now being occupied. 


For the first time, tlie county's records will be 
safe, and the public business will be done in a 
building as creditable to the county as to its de- 
signer and its builder. And — for the future to 
read — ^note that the undertaking has not called 
for either a bond issue or for taxes higher than 
those prevalent in other counties ; in fact the com- 
parison usually discloses that Inyo's rate is 
among the State's lowest. 



Investigation was begun in July, 1903, of the 
feasibility of a project for reclamation of arid 
lands in the Owens "River watershed, under di- 
rection of the National Reclamation Service. The 
plan announced to be followed, in case of favor- 
able findings, was to be similar to that employed 
in other parts of the West, where flood waters 
were being stored and distributed to promote set- 
tlement and development. The proposed details in- 
cluded ''high line" canals skirting the foothills 
on either side of the valley, with laterals for 
proper distribution. Drainage of such tracts as 
might require it was also included in the plan. 

The project was heartily welcomed by the peo- 
ple of Owens Valley. Some storage locations 
had previously been made by citizens, who, how- 
ever, lacked the means requisite to carrying out 
their purposes. Those claims were willingly sur- 
rendered at the Government's request, and every 
co-operation that the service asked was freely 
given by the large number of people who were 



already deriving the water supplies essential to 
their farms from sources that would be involved 
in the project. 

Extensive investigations were made, covering 
stream measurements, tests of soils, area of farm- 
ing lands, the duty of water in this climate, sites 
of proposed storage dams, and other details. 
Among the reports was a showing that the avail- 
able volume of water would be sufficient, or nearly 
so, to reclaim practically all of the untilled land 
in the valley. Estimates of cost demonstrated 
that the Owens Valley Project, as it was known, 
promised greater results for the necessary invest- 
ments than any other that had been completed or 
that was then under study. Every detail of the 
undertaking was favorable, and the people of Inyo, 
while noting the slowness of definite announce- 
ment or action, entertained no doubt of the good 
faith of the work being done. Months went by 
while the Eeclamation Bureau did little more than 
mark time. 

In the early days of August, 1905, news came 
that the city of Los Angeles was planning to 
utilize Owens Eiver as an additional water sup- 
ply. The report seemed incredible, for not only 
was the Eeclamation Project to be reckoned with, 
but the undertaking would involve construction 
of an aqueduct over 200 miles in length and cost- 
ing many million dollars. But developments soon 
proved the forecast to be correct. 

Fred Eaton, a former Mayor of Los Angeles, 
during the year preceding had bought extensive 
land holdings in the southern and central part of 


Owens Valley, chiefly those bordering on or 
watered from Owens River. It developed that 
these purchases fitted into the city's plan, as he 
in turn deeded the greater part of such lands to 
Los Angeles. After the revelation of the scheme 
the buying campaign was carried on openly, until 
the city had acquired 70,000 or more acres. The 
natural alarm created by the whole situation was 
not lessened by declarations of the Los Angeles 
press. That the county buildings would become 
the habitations of bats and owls and that grass 
would grow in the streets of the county seat, were 
sample predictions. 

It was soon demonstrated that the Reclamation 
Service, instead of being in any way an inter- 
ference, was proving itself to be but the city's 
ally and agent in Owens Valley. This was not 
with the co-operation, however, of Project 
Engineer Clausen, in direct local charge. 

The head of the Reclamation Service in Cali- 
fornia, and the supervising officer of the Owens 
Valley Project, was J. B. Lippincott, of Los 
Angeles. A Los Angeles newspaper stated that 
Eaton, Lippincott, William Mulholland (chief 
engineer of the aqueduct) and others had for four 
years investigated all water sources within reach. 
Lippincott 's employment with the Reclamation 
Service had begun within that time. The Los 
Angeles Times remarked: 

"Without Mr. Lippincott's co-operation the plan would 
never have gone through. Any other government engineer, a 
non-resident of Los Angeles, undoubtedly would have gone 
ahead with nothing more than the mere reclamation of arid 
lands in view." 


During the time that reclamation project in- 
vestigations had been under way in Owens Val- 
ley under Lippincott's supervision, he had been 
employed by the city of Los Angeles to investi- 
gate water sources. Lippincott's report to the 
city on Owens Valley water supply, a payment of 
$1,000 to him and his partner covering three 
months of the period of his employment, while he 
was still in charge of reclamation, and other de- 
tails relative to the subject are authenticated. In 
other words, Lippincott had been put in charge of 
reclamation matters, presumably for advancing 
them in good faith ; at the same time he was fur- 
thering a scheme involving the defeat of a promis- 
ing reclamation project, and was using his official 
position for that purpose. 

About the time the Los Angeles proposition 
became publicly known, a Board of Engineers met 
in San Francisco to consider the reports on the 
Owens Valley Eeclamation Project and to decide 
on its feasibility. The chief reports were those 
of Project Engineer Clausen, who on facts and 
figures urged that the undertaking be carried out 
as designed. Lippincott was also present; and 
while admitting the complete feasibility of the 
project, he argued for turning the field over to 
Los Angeles. The Board of Engineers approved 
Clausen's view, and reported for continuing the 
original project. 

Lippincott's superior in office was F. H. 
Newell. He, too, was a party to the city's scheme, 
as appeared from the following passage in the 
record of the Los Angeles Water Conomission of 
June 5, 1905 : 


"The Superintendent suggested that inasmuch as the de- 
partment had received valuable assistance from the Reclama- 
tion department of the United States Government in con- 
nection with the procurement of a water supply from the 
Owens River Valley, a letter should be addressed to Mr. F. H. 
Newell, Chief Engineer, acknowledging such assistance and 
reporting progi-ess to date, as that department is holding in 
abeyance some work it had designed in that valley pending our 

In tlie course of one of the suits which were 
brought in Los Angeles during the progress of 
aqueduct proceedings, an officer testified that the 
resolution had been communicated to Newell ; that 
a copy of it had been made, but by direction of a 
city officer it had been destroyed in order that '*it 
might not be used to the detriment of the city and 
those who had aided it. ' ' 

In spite of some dissent in the city itself, an 
overwhelming majority favored the first great 
bond issue, $22,500,000, and subsequent support 
was given as required. Some of the dissent came 
from interests for business reasons ; no small part 
of it was from citizens who were acquainted with 
the character of Owens River flow, or had other 
sincere grounds. Different investigating parties 
were sent along the aqueduct route; it was re- 
marked, however, that such parties were in- 
variably under the chaperonage of one or more of 
the chief advocates of the plan. But the bulk of 
the citizens of Los Angeles took their opinions 
ready made, and the different elections and dis- 
cussions of the topic were hardly more than mat- 
ters of form. 

Additional settlement of vacant lands at that 


period was not desired by the aqueduct promoters, 
for such development might reduce the water sup- 
ply available for the scheme. Los Angeles bu- 
reau, which proved its efficiency in many ways 
during the period, headed off such possibilities by 
the simple expedient of having the Forest Service, 
then under ultra-conservationist Gifford Pinchot, 
withdraw all vacant land in the Owens Valley 
watershed on the preposterous pretense of its be- 
ing ''forest." This included square leagues cov- 
ered with grass and sagebrush, where the only 
trees within any reasonable distance were those 
that had been planted by settlers. It was further 
directed that all applications for land permitted 
under forest regulations be referred to the city 
of Los Angeles for approval. One subordinate 
after another reported in favor of restoring such 
lands to entry, during the next several years, but 
onerous and retarding conditions prevailed until 
President Taft issued such order February 23, 
1911 ; and even then it was more than a year later 
that they were fully removed. 

There were some important phases which not 
all the strained constructions and special depart- 
mental orders could be made to cover, and it had 
been necessary as a preliminary for the city to go 
to Congress for rights of way. Owens Valley pre- 
sented its case through Congressman Sylvester C. 
Smith, at all times the steadfast champion of the 
rights of the people of Inyo. He submitted, with 
the complete approval of Inyo representatives, the 
following basis of agreement : 

First, that the vested rights of the people of 
Owens Valley be fully recognized; 


Second, tlie city to be awarded 10,000 inches 
of the flow of Owens River. It was felt that this 
was ample, for Los Angeles engineers had re- 
ported, after making every allowance for growth, 
that 2,500 inches of supplemental flow would pro- 
vide an ample water supply in 1925 ; 

Third, Owens Valley lands to be reclaimed ; 

Fourth, any surplus then remaining to belong 
to the city to use as it might wish. 

It may be well to say here that the people of 
Owens Valley did not at any time whatsoever ob- 
ject to Los Angeles taking any amount of water 
that might be required for the domestic and mu- 
nicipal uses for which the aqueduct was urged, 
and there was, and is, no doubt of the supple- 
mental allotment proposed being ample for those 
purposes for decades to come. The Owens Val- 
leyans contended that the real purpose of the 
whole undertaking was not the alleged city need, 
put forward as an excuse, but the diverting of 
Owens River from its natural watershed, and from 
use on the lands which so much needed it, to areas 
in the vicinity of Los Angeles for irrigation and 
speculative purposes. The passing years have 
proved the correctness of this belief. 

Secretary of the Interior Hitchcock accepted 
the suggestions of Mr. Smith and incorporated 
them in his recommendations on the bill. But 
President Roosevelt was reached through the 
ultra-conservationists in his ''Tennis Cabinet" — 
that coterie of the Pinchot school, who stood high 
in the President's favor. He directed that all re- 
strictions on the city's grant of water rights be 


stricken out, and Los Angeles was virtually em- 
powered to go to the limit of its desires and 

While there was not the unity of action by 
Inyo people that the necessity demanded, Inyo 
did not submit meekly to the program. But the 
protestants were only a handful ; their despoilers 
numbered hundreds of thousands. Inyo had no 
defense money, except as scant individual ad- 
vances could be secured; Los Angeles had a city 
treasury wide open for the occasion. Inyo was 
taken unaware; Los Angeles had shrewdly laid 
and matured its schemes before their announce- 
ment. The city had so established its influence 
in places of power and had so secure a hold on 
officials where needed that opposing efforts were 
useless, not only against legislation, but against 
misuse of reclamation law and departmental pur- 
poses. The ''Owens Valley Kickers" came to be 
well known in the bureau-controlled irrigation 
congresses and in Washington departments hav- 
ing to do with the issue, and that was the sum 
of their achievements. 

The city's plans have been further expanded 
to include a huge power enterprise involving the 
storage of the waters of Owens River in Long 
Valley, not many miles below their headwaters. 
This directly affects all irrigation in Owens Val- 
ley, from that source, and when this is written 
negotiations for a clear definition of rights and 
guarantees are in progress — as they have been 
for long past. A satisfactory agreement should 
be the final chapter of a long-standing question. 


and its consummation will be local history of the 
first importance. 

This is written as a brief record, necessarily 
giving only the merest outline of events and af- 
fairs that in complete details would suffice to fill 
a volume. Neither the completion of the aqueduct, 
the passage of time, nor the benefits, along with 
injuries, that have come to Owens Valley give rea- 
son for changing the statement that the diversion 
of Owens River water from appurtenant lands to 
be used on tracts two hundred miles distant, in 
a different watershed, was won through perver- 
sion of the intent of the Reclamation Act. In 
phrasing more accurately descriptive than elegant, 
"the government held Owens Valley while Los 
Angeles skinned it." 

The aqueduct was built, a wonderful enter- 
prise worthy of an ambitious city. The Los 
Angeles land buying came to an end without reach- 
ing deeply into cultivated lands; but the tracts 
that have passed to the city, be they natural grass 
areas or productive farms, have been thrown back 
to primitive neglect by the policy of taking their 
irrigation water to help to fill the aqueduct. 
Artesian wells were put down, to add to the water 
supply; their success, without interference with 
adjacent areas, seems problematical. Los Angeles 
acquiesced in a constitutional amendment for the 
just purpose of insuring the county against some 
of the loss of revenue from city ownership. South- 
em railroad connection, when accomplished, was 
a direct result of the aqueduct work. Some of 
these things are to be set on the credit side of the 


account. We shall gladly list with them the pro- 
fessions of amity, whenever by meeting the just 
and reasonable demands of Owens Valley the city 
shall show that any consideration it may extend 
arises from the sense of equity, and not merely 
as an incident in securing some further conces- 



Inyo bore its part in the Great War. Not only 
did its young men answer as their country called, 
but some of them did not wait for that call. Some 
volunteered, waiving exemptions; others, before 
this nation became an active participant, went 
across the Canadian line and joined the British 
forces to help to end the menace of the Kaiser. 
No complete roll of those who went to fortress 
or field from this county, or who, belonging here, 
joined the colors from some other locality, can be 
had. There were five hundred or more, in all, 
from our small population. Some we sadly laid 
away in our own cemeteries, in their uniforms; 
some sleep in foreign lands. The total roll of 
Inyo soldier dead, so far as it has been obtained 
and corrected, includes these : 

Thomas E. Climo Joel Henry Lawrence 

Abraham Diaz, Jr. Fred E. Lewis 

Roy W. Fitchett J. L. Linde 

Arthur W. Fritch Oren E. Morton 
George Benjamin Hogle Frank Parrish 

Fred A. Humphreys Grayson Wilkerson 

Joseph Konda, Jr. Oliver Wingfield 

Herbert Landin Frank A. Wodicker 



During the years, Inyo's advance was gradual, 
but sure, toward better things in every line. 
Ajnong all the wide-openness of frontier condi- 
tions there was a leaven of higher aspirations — 
not only men and women who were with but not 
of the scenes of an almost lawless period, but those 
who were for the moment but submerging their 
better thoughts and who later proved their worth. 
As has been shown, even while pistols were fre- 
quently seen and sometimes used, a strong ma- 
jority had, in one part of the county, voted to 
abolish the bars whence came most of the blood- 

What progress the settlers made was to their 
own credit. Strangers were so few that he who 
did not know practically every one of prominence 
from Darwin to Round Valley was poorly 
acquainted. Travel to 'Hhe outside" was almost 
prohibited by the cost, time and effort required. 
Mails were infrequent, but they came laden with 
a total of reading matter surprising considering 
the small population. This was a self-reliant peo- 
ple. Labor took the place of non-existent money 
to build canals, and necessity found the valley 
equally ready to care for itself in other ways as 
need arose. 

There were enough of the really progressive 



to branch out for community and county better- 
ment ; and though it often happened that a degree 
of inertia had to be conquered, each issue went 
forward to final success. Co-operative enterprises 
played a large part in our welfare; and while it 
might be justifiable to trace out the beginnings 
of the various movements for local upbuilding, 
stock, farms, apiary, fruit, and so on, suffice it to 
say that those who have come later have carried 
on the work the pioneers began. Organizations 
for social, personal and public advancement, fra- 
ternities, clubs and other bodies for both men 
and women, have grown in keeping with the spirit 
that will enable the future writer to dwell more 
on the details of achievements than on the hard- 
ships of pioneering. 




County Judge 

Oscar L. Matthews appointed by Governor, 
1866; 1868-1871, A. C. Hanson; 1872-1880, John A. 
Hannah. Office abolished by new constitution. 

SuPEEiOB Judge 
1880-1890, John A. Hannah; 1891-1896, George 
M. Gill; 1897-1908, Walter A. Lamar; 1909 to 
present, William D. Dehy. 

1866, W. A. Greenly, resigned December, 1867 ; 
1868-1869, W. L. Moore, resigned November, 1869; 
1870-1871, A. B. Elder; 1871-1873, Cyrus Mulkey, 
resigned May, 1874 ; J. J. Moore appointed, served 
to end of 1875 ; 1876 to February 10, 1878, Thomas 
Passmore, killed in discharge of duty; 1878 to 
July 3, 1879, William L. Moore, killed in discharge 
of duty; J. J. Moore appointed to serve for 
remainder of year; 1880-1882, J. W. Smith; 1883- 
1884, S. G. Gregg; 1885-1886, J. S. McGee; 1887- 
1888, S. G. Gregg; 1889-1890, J. R. Eldred; 
1891-1894, J. S. Gorman; 1895-1902, A. M. Given; 
1903-1906, Charles A. Collins ; 1907-1910, George 
W. Naylor; 1911-1914, Charles A. Collins; 1915 to 
present, Frank Logan. 


appendices 335 

Clerk, Auditor and Eecorder 

1866, Thomas Passmore, resigned May 6, 1867 ; 
S. P. Moffatt appointed then elected, serving to 
end of 1871; 1872-1874, M. W. Hammarstrand ; 
1875-1877, W. B. Dangherty; 1878, John Crough, 
who served until March, 1884, when he suicided in 
the Clerk's office; Thomas Crough appointed for 
remainder of 1884. 1885-1886, William L. Hunter ; 
1887-1890, P. H. Mack; 1891-1892, John N. Yan- 
dell; 1893, D. J. Hession, who served until his 
death in February, 1900; J. E. Meroney ap- 
pointed, and served by election to end of 1906; 
1907-1914, William L. Hunter, Jr. Offices of Clerk, 
Auditor and Eecorder segregated effective Jan- 
uary, 1915. Jess Hession served as Clerk, 1915- 
1918 ; Dan E. Williams, 1919 to present. 


Position segregated from Clerk's duties begin- 
ning 1915. 1915 to present, Thos. M. Kendrick. 


Position segregated from Clerk's duties be- 
ginning 1915. 1915, W. L. Hunter Jr., who died 
February 4, 1920. Mrs. Mamie Reynolds ap- 
pointed, elected that year, and present incumbent. 


1866-1867, John T. Ryan; 1867, A. C. Stevens, 
resigned, L. A. Talcott appointed ; 1869-1871, Geo. 
W. Brady; 1872-1873, J. F. Dillon ; 1873-1874, Wm. 
J. Lake; 1875-1879, J. F. Dillon; 1880, Thos. May, 


who absconded May 1881, with shortage of 
$1,279. J. C. Irwin appointed; 1883-1886, John C. 
Irwin; 1887-1898, P. A. Chalfant; 1899-1914, W. 
W. Yandell; 1915-1918, Vivian L. Jones; 1919, 
U. Gr. Clark, present incumbent. 


1866, John Lentell; 1868-9, Andrew N. Bell; 
1870-1871, Isaac Harris; 1872-1879, Henry M. 
Isaacs; 1880-1886, Geo. H. Hardy; 1887-1892, J. J. 
Moore ; 1893, W. T. Bunney forward to December 
1902, when he absconded, with some shortage; 
1903-1906, Irv. H. Mulholland; 1907 forward, A. 
P. Mairs, present incumbent. 

District Attorney 

1866, John Beveridge, failed to qualify; Thos. 
P. Slade appointed, resigned August 1868; Pat 
Reddy appointed, failed to qualify ; P. W. Bennett 
appointed. Beveridge elected 1869, failed to 
qualify, Bennett again appointed; 1872-1873, E. 
H. Van Decar; 1874-1875, R. B. Snelling; 1876- 
1877, P. W. Bennett; 1878-1879, E. B. Snelling; 
1880-1886, J. W. P. Laird; 1887-1888, P. W. 
Forbes; 1889-1890, Geo. M. Gill; 1891-1898, P. W. 
Forbes; 1899-1910, Wm. D. Dehy; 1911-1914, F. 
C. Scherrer; 1915-1918, P. W. Forbes; 1919, Jess 
Hession, present incumbent. 

Superintendent of Schools 

1866, Josiah Earl; 1868-1869, C. M. Joslyn; 
1870-1873, J. W. Symmes; 1874-1875, Geo. H. 
Hardy; 1876-1882, J. W. Symmes; 1883-1886, 


Chas. H. Groves; 1886-1894, J. H. Shannon; 1895- 
1898, S. W. Austin; 1899-1902, H. 0. Hampton; 
1903 to present, Mrs. M. A. Clarke. 


1866, B. D. Blaney; 1867, A. Farnsworth, place 
declared vacant and John A. Lank appointed, 
serving to end of 1873; 1874-5, A. Wayland; 1876- 
1877, J. D. Blair; 1877-1878, John A. Lank; 1879- 
1882, V. G. Thompson; 1883-1884, G. W. Brady; 
1885-1888, Wm. F. Matlack; 1889-1892, Thos. 
Parker; 1893-1894, H. H. Howell; 1895-1898, L J. 
Woodin; 1899-1902, I. P. Yaney; 1903 until his 
death March 2, 1916, H. H. Eobinson; M. M. Skin- 
ner appointed; 1918, Milton Levy, resigned, Oris 
Carrasco appointed, present incumbent. 

Tax Collector 

Position segregated from Sheriff's office, effec- 
tive with beginning of 1907 ; 1907-1910, J. E. Shep- 
herd; 1911-1914, C. L MacFarlane; 1915-1918, U. 
G. Clark; 1919 to present, Mrs. Jessie C. Miller. 


1866-1872, Lyman Tuttle; 1873-1876, M. H. 
White; 1877-1886, Joseph Seely; 1887-1894, S. P. 
McKnight; 1895-1902; W. G. Dixon; 1903-1910, 
A. M. Strong; 1918 to present, B. E. Sherwin. 




Inyo's vote has never been heavy enough to 
be unportant in national or State issues. Though 
counted as normally Eepublican on national ques- 
tions, its decisions have been independent in the 
extreme. In county elections there was but a 
minimum of ' ' sticking to party lines, ' ' during the 
days before non-partisanship became the legislated 
system. It frequently or usually happened that 
while the vote on the head of the ticket was for 
one party the majority of elected county officers 
were of a different political faith. 

The votes at the more important elections have 
been as follows : 

1867, for Congress — Axtell, Democrat, 104; 
Phelps, Eepublican, 102. 

1868, President— Grant Electors, 113; Sey- 
mour Electors, 100. 

1871, Governor — Haight, Democrat, 311; 
Booth, Republican, 257. 

1872, President— Grant Electors, 206; Greeley 
Electors, 176. 

1875, Governor — Bidwell, Independent, 248; 
Phelps, Republican, 179; Irwin, Democrat, 159. 

1876, President— Tilden Electors, 375; Hayes 
Electors, 343. 

1879, Governor — Perkins, Republican, 295; 
Glenn, Fusion, 252. 

1880, President— Garfield Electors, 321 ; Han- 
cock Electors, 294. 

1882, Governor — Stoneman, Democrat, 321; 


Estee, Republican, 300; rest of State ticket Re- 
publican majority of about 10. 

1884, President — Blaine Electors, 345-; Cleve- 
land Electors, 283. 

1886, Governor — Swift, Republican, 356 ; Bart- 
lett. Democrat, 283. 

1888, President — Harrison Electors, 406 
Cleveland Electors, 274. 

1890, Governor — ^Markham, Republican, 409 
Pond, Democrat, 305. 

1892, President — Harrison Electors, 406 
Cleveland Electors 260. 

1894, Governor — Estee, Republican, 476 ; Budd, 
Democrat, 228. In this campaign the vote was 
influenced by A. R. Conklin, of Inyo, being the 
Republican nominee for Lieutenant Governor. 

1896, President— Bryan Electors 532; McKin- 
ley Electors, 236. The free-silver issue strongly 
appealed to many Inyoites in this campaign. 

1898, Governor — Maguire, Democrat, 508; 
Gage, Republican, 478. 

1900, President— Bryan Electors, 530 ; McKin- 
ley Electors, 397. 

1902, Governor — Pardee, Republican, 435 
Lane, Democrat, 427. 

1904, President — Roosevelt Electors, 452 
Parker Electors, 230. 

1906, Governor — ^Langdon, Independent, 387 
Gillett, Republican, 284; Bell, Democrat, 190. 

1908, President— Taft Electors, 574; Bryan 
Electors, 609. 

1910, Governor — Bell, Democrat, 634 ; Johnson, 
Republican, 582. 


1912, President— Wilson Electors, 806 ; Roose- 
velt Electors, 302; Debs Electors, 302; Chafin 
Electors, 77; Taft Electors, 8. The swing to 
Wilson in this election was due not only to the 
Republican split but also to Inyo resentment at 
the President's attitude toward this valley in the 
Los Angeles controversy. 

1914, Governor — Johnson, Progressive, 876; 
Fredericks, Republican, 601; Richardson, Social- 
ist, 378; Curtin, Democrat, 258; Moore, Prohibi- 
tion, 73. 

1916, President — ^Wilson Electors, 967; Hughes 
Electors, 844 ; Benson Electors, 151 ; Hanley Elec- 
tors, 51. 

1918, Grovernor — Stephens, Republican, 744; 
Bell, Democrat, 315; Roser, Socialist, 88. 

1920, President— Harding Electors, 1192; Cox 
Electors, 681 ; Socialist Electors 179 ; Prohibition 
Electors, 31. 


Altitudes of peaks neighboring Owens Valley 
are sometimes a matter of controversy. In listing 
for convenient reference a trifle of information, 
it is found that observers diifer in several cases. 
Gannett 's Dictionary of Altitudes is a publication 
of the United States Geological Survey; so are 
pamphlets giving the results of spirit leveling, and 
so are the U. S. G. S. quadrangle maps. There 


are instances in which no two of these, all from 
the same authority, agree in statements. North 
Palisade, or Mt. Jordan, is given as 14,250, 14,275 
and 14,282. One puts Mt. Williamson at 14,500, 
another 14,384 ; Mt. Tyndall, 14,025 in one tabula- 
tion, is 14,386 in another. In the list below the 
quadrangle figures are used where available. A 
few peaks in other States are included to show the 
relative rank of the highest points of the nation. 

Mt Wliitney 14,501 

Mt. Elbert, Colorado 14,421 

Mt. Blanca, Colorado 14,390 

Mt. Williamson 14,384 

Mt. Shasta, California 14,380 

Mt. Harvard, Colorado 14,375 

Mt. Rainier, Washington 14,363 

According to available figures, these are the 
seven highest in the continental United States. 
There are nearly fifty over 14,000 feet. Disre- 
garding many peaks less known, some other alti- 
tudes are as follows: 

White Mountain Peak (ranks twentieth) 14,242 

Mt. Sill 14,198 

Pike's Peak, Colorado 14,108 

Middle Palisade 14,049 

Mt. Langley 14,043 

Mt. Muir 14,035 

Mt. Barnard 14,003 

Mt. Humphreys 13,972 

Mt. Morgan 13,739 

Mt. Tom 13,649 

Mt. Montgomery (White Mountains) 13,465 

Basin Mountain 13,229 

Mt. Emerson 13,226 

Kearsarge Peak 12,650 



As indicated in the first chapter of this book, 
the topographic extremes of the United States 
proper are both mthin the limits of Inyo county. 
Mt. Whitney lifts its head nearer to heaven than 
any other spot. Death Valley sinks further to- 
ward the orthodox nether regions than any other ; 
deeper below the sea's level, and is at least not 
surpassed on earth in its power of torment for 
the human atoms who may fall within its clutches. 

Possession of the ill-famed sink is not a matter 
for boastfulness. Neither is it necessarily a re- 
proach, for aside from the fact that it is a mineral 
treasure house, it is so far distant from Owens 
Valley's fertile farms and comfortable homes that 
if Death Valley and all its neighborhood were 
taken from our map Inyo would still have a 
greater area than any one of several of the At- 
lantic States possesses. Bishop is farther from 
Death Valley than the width of the State of Con- 
necticut, and there is plenty of room to outline a 
new Delaware between the most contiguous points 
of Owens and Death Valleys. The territory had 
to be under some jurisdiction, and it was wished 
upon Inyo. 

A distinction is made: "Death Valley" is a 
rather broad term taking in a large area of deso- 
lation; "Death Valley proper" is much smaller. 
The broader term is applied not only to the more 
noted central portion but also to arms or branches 
known as Lost Valley, Saratoga Springs, etc. 


This larger region extends fully 120 miles. 
''Death Valley proper" is the region of dread, 
and is fifty or sixty miles long. This -more re- 
stricted part is below sea level, and for more than 
forty miles is floored with a saline marsh from 
one to eight miles wide. These great beds change 
their appearance according to the observer's view 
point and the time of day. In the morning, seen 
from the east, and in the afternoon, seen from the 
west, they are gleaming white ; reverse the hours 
and positions and they become a shady gray. This 
is due to the shadows of an uneven surface. 

On the west the Panamints, on the east the 
Funerals, are the valley walls. Telescope Peak, 
seen from the valley, is majestic indeed, for it 
stands shoulders above the range to its left and 
right, and has an elevation of 10,938 feet above 
sea level. The observer in the valley is some 200 
to 300 feet lower than where tides ebb and flow, 
so there is offered the greatest difference in eleva- 
tion in the country. Whitney stands much higher, 
but is seen from a valley that approximates 4000 
feet above the sea, and the contrast is less. The 
Funerals — also called Grapevine or Amargosa in 
different places — rise from 5000 to 9000 feet. The 
Death Valley face presents a varied coloring, 
white from strata of borax, gray, green, yellow, 
and other hues. It is a country of striking 

Geological aspects of that region are interest- 
ing to the thoughtful layman as well as to the ex- 
pert. Sydney H. Ball, of the Geological Survey, 
gives the name of ''Pahute" to the primeval lake 


that once covered the area. This is believed to 
have covered the country from north of Goldfield 
to south of Death Valley, and ninety miles east 
and west. Rugged islands rose in it here and 

"The climate must have been moist," says Ball, "and the 
presence of fossilized wood in the lake beds shows that trees 
flourished near the shores. The lake was for the most part 
fresh. The Pahute lake was destroyed in part by the in- 
creasing aridity of the climate and in part by deformation. 
"Volcanic flows and explosive eruptions of rhyolitic material 
occurred at various times during the existence of the lake. 
The deformation blocked out the mountain ranges as they 
now appear and formed many of the enclosed valleys by 
broad folding or warping. Death Valley was at this time 
first outlined, though it was depressed later. 

"In Tertiary, probably early and middle Miocene time, 
Death Valley did not exist. Amargosa and Panamint ranges 
were low, and their southern portions at least were covered 
by a lake which extended well into the present Death Valley 
south of Salt Creek. In late Pliocene time, however. Death 
Valley was probably a closed basin occupied by a sheet of 

water The folding of the Amargosa and Panamint 

ranges does not alone account for the valley, and it appears 
to be a block dropped down between the bounding ranges by 

A geological survey report claims that Death 
Valley is one of the best watered parts of the 
desert. Water — mineralized — is close to the sur- 
face of the marshes. The Amargosa River, run- 
ning around the southern end of the Funeral 
Range, turns toward the southern end of Death 
Valley, but rarely carries water enough to reach 
the sink. It is said that it has not carried suffi- 
cient volume to discharge into the sink since 1850. 
Grenerally its bed is a dry wash, with water in 


a few places only; but when a cloudburst occurs 
within its drainage area it may become a raging 
torrent for a few hours. Willow, Furnace and 
Honepa creeks are other streams of considerable 
flows which are lost in the sands within a few 
miles of the springs from which they start. How- 
ever pure the waters of these streams at their 
heads, they soon become impregnated with min- 

The Greological Survey lists forty-eight springs 
and wells in the area north of Saratoga Springs 
and between the boundary ranges. Persons fa- 
miliar with the country say that not more than 
half the water is listed, and that there must be at 
leas a hundred such places. Most of the water 
holes are small, yielding but a few gallons in a 
day's seepage. Saratoga Springs is a pool twenty- 
five feet in diameter and four feet deep. While 
most of the springs are charged with minerals, 
those above sea level are considered safe for use. 
The ''poison springs" do not contain arsenic, we 
are told by a survey authority, but are charged 
with Epsom salts and Glauber's salts, and are 
fatal only because the victim, usually weakened 
in condition, drinks their water without modera- 
tion. Usually the springs are hard to find, and 
even old-timers in the vicinity have been known 
to hunt for two or three days before coming upon 
the coveted water supply. Indians indicate water 
holes by placing white rocks conspicuously on 
larger rocks, in situations where they can be 
readily seen. 

What Death Valley has cost in human life will 


never be known. The starting point, so far as 
known, was with the unfortunates of 1849, as 
related in this book. Probably not a year since 
the white people began coming to this region has 
passed without adding to the list. In one short 
period covering a few years the known fatalities 
numbered twelve. It is said that during 1906 
thirty-two bodies were found. How many were 
lost and not counted in such records will never be 
known; how many started out on a "short cut" 
and, with no one to inquire as to their safe arrival, 
got no farther than the bottom of that pit no one 
can guess. Near the Furnace Creek ranch is a 
graveyard with thirteen mounds. Generally the 
dead are buried where found. One writer has 
maintained that gases from the marshes has had 
something to do with some of the deaths, but no 
scientific investigator notes any fact in confirma- 

For all its ill repute, there is much of interest 
in the noted spot. It is not a place of poisonous 
atmosphere. Its dangers lie in disregard of the 
warnings of experience; in foolhardy or ignorant 
braving of its furnacelike heat at the wrong sea- 
son. Every nook in it has been explored; trails 
and roads cross it; mining is done in its moun- 
tains; gardens produce profusely in the valley 
itself. But to the end of time it will justify its 
name, and men, heedless of what is told them, will 
perish in its burning sunshine. 

It is a place of paradoxes. During some parts 
of the year it would serve as a veritable health 
resort. While rain is scanty and seldom falls, the 


skies shed rivers at times. It is the hottest place 
in America, but is often shaded by snow-capped 
peaks. Men die there from lack of moisture, but 
waterfowl tarry in Death Valley on their migra- 


The United States Weather Bureau sent an 
observer and assistant to Death Valley in 1881. 
The assistant, E. H. Williams, was unable to 
stand the terrific heat, and left; John H. Clery, 
observer, stayed through the five hottest months. 

During May, June, July, August and Septem- 
ber the average temperature was 94 degrees. The 
highest in May was but 105; each of the three 
following months the thermometer reached 122, 
and in September the top mark was 119. The 
July average, night and day, was a trifle over 102. 
These maximum temperatures run about the same 
as in the hottest places in India, Arabia, Lower 
California and northern Mexico, but Death Valley 
keeps it up for a longer period. This is the judg- 
ment of the Weather Bureau. Reports from other 
sources seem to indicate that Mr. Clery happened 
to make his visit in a cool summer. The writer 
has been informed by a transient Death Valleyan 
that the mercury in a common thermometer 
reached the top of the tube, 132 degrees, in the 
shade at the Death Valley ranch. It is said that 
a record of 137 was made by a thermometer on the 
north side of the house at the Furnace Creek 
ranch. Observations made by common thermom- 
eters are rightly open to suspicion, so better evi- 


dence is given by a tested thermometer used by 
a surveyor who ran lines in the valley in 1883. 
He kept it in the shade and hanging over a stream. 
It repeatedly registered 130, and for forty-eight 
hours in one stretch 104 was its lowest. 

The effects of such conditions are striking. 
Meat killed at night and cooked at 6 in the morn- 
ing had spoiled at 9 o 'clock. When meat is fresh 
killed, cut thin and dipped in brine, the sun cures 
it in an hour. Eggs can be roasted in the sand. 
Fig trees bloom in the genial air of late winter and 
early spring, but their fruit never matures. 
Furniture warps, splits and falls to pieces. 
Water barrels lost their hoops within an hour 
after emptied. One end of a blanket that had been 
washed dried while the other end was in the tub. 
Near where these tests were made is a flat rock 
upon which is lettered: "Hell, 8 miles; Nowhere, 
150 miles." 

A thirty-year resident of that country noted 
that he had known the mercury to stand at 128 
and 130 at midnight. He relates that he once 
thought to take a refreshing bath in water from 
a pipe in the valley. The stream that fell upon 
his skin was so near scalding that he gave it up 
as too hot for even a well-baked ''desert rat." 

The air is not only hot; it is kiln-dried. It is 
understood, of course, that we write of the ex- 
treme conditions, at the hottest season. Most of 
the wind, of which there is enough, comes from the 
west and south. The Sierras, Owens Valley and 
the ranges between Death Valley and the coast 
extract the wind's moisture to nearly the last 


degree. The glaring wastes and sun finish the 
job. Clery found remarkably low percentages of 
humidity during his stay. Men who dug a ditch 
at the Furnace Creek ranch slept in the -running 
stream with their heads safely pillowed above 

It is this extreme dryness of the air that helps 
to wind up the lost man. The moisture is 
drawn from his body rapidly ; his drinking supply 
is drawn upon, the more excessively if he is un- 
acquainted with the dangers. When the heat 
overcomes him, and insanity comes, as seems to 
be usually the case, his first tendency is dig for 
water if he be desert-wise. One experienced 
desert habitue who had become lost was picked 
up just in time to save his life. He had started to 
tunnel through the Funeral Range to reach Green- 
water, with only his fingers for tools. In another 
case — typical of many — if the victim had had the 
same instinct, he might have lived; for when 
those found him dug a grave close by in which to 
lay his body they stmck water within 18 inches of 
the surface. One rescued man had tied all his 
clothing into a bimdle and was carrying it on his 
head, under the impression that he was wading 
through deep waters. 

Bodies of those lost in the lowlands decompose 
very rapidly, as a rule, regardless of whether they 
lie on salt or borax fields or on the sand. In the 
higher places they are more likely to wither and 
mummify, to a considerable extent. 

An experienced ''desent rat" tells of hearing 
a man lecture for an hour on how to avoid the 



perils of the desert; a week later the lecturer was 
rescued from the fate he had been warning against. 
One man about to perish cut his palate with his 
knife so that the blood dropped on his tongue and 
kept it from swelling. A teamster for the borax 
company started for a spring, and he and his 
mules all died on the road. 

While moisture is customarily very much miss- 
ing, there are times when it comes copiously 
indeed, in the form of cloudbursts. They are most 
to be expected in the hottest weather. One who 
saw such an occurrence thus described it : " Right 
in the clear sky appears a cloud, black and om- 
inous, streaked with fire, growing with wonderful 
rapidity, and eventually sagging down like a great 
sack. The cloud is always formed above the 
mountains, and after a time its bulbous, sagging 
body strikes a peak. Floods of water are released 
on the instant, and in waves of incredible size 
they roll down the cliffs and canyons. Precipices 
and peaks are carried away, gulches are filled with 
the debris, mesas and foothills are covered. The 
face of a mountain may be so changed within an 
hour as to be scarcely recognizable, and even the 
lighter storms rip the heart out of a canyon, so 
that only jagged gulches and heaps of broken rock 
are found where once, perhaps, a good trail 

A Death Valley pioneer tells of sleeping near 
the mouth of Furnace Creek Canyon with a * ' bug 
hunter" — desert for entomologist. The scientist, 
unable to sleep in the hot air, gave his attention to 
a roaring in the canyon, along toward midnight. 


To his surprise, the space between the canyon 
walls suddenly grew white. His comrade chanced 
to waken, and the bug sharp asked him what ailed 
the sky. One look sufficed to cause the desert 
denizen to yell ' ' Cloudburst ! Climb ! ' ' And climb 
they did, just in time to escape a wall of water 
which was estimated to be not less than a hundred 
feet high. 

It has been stated herein that winds are plenti- 
ful. Though generally of but a few hours dura- 
tion, their velocity is often from thirty to fifty 
miles an hour. In that country this stirs up sand- 
storms which must be seen, or experienced, to be 
fully appreciated. One observer says he awoke 
one morning to find the air full of a whitish haze. 
To the west the landscape was blotted out by a 
dense brown fog — blown particles of earth. A 
Death Valley sandstorm seen from the mountain 
top is a strange spectacle. The huge pit of Death 
Valley is full of tumbling clouds of dust, billows 
that roll and change with every instant. After 
such a storm the sky shows generously the evening 
sky-markings which as children we held to be 
caused by the sun ^'drawing water." After a 
sandstorm there are such fan-like shafts, made by 
suspended dust in the upper air. ' ' Sharp squalls, ' ' 
says one writer, '^ plunged down the canyons and 
gulches, and there gathered the dusty forms in 
their arms and went whirling away in gigantic 
waltzes. It is no wonder that the Arabs of this 
desert country, the Piutes, believe in witches and 
supernatural powers in the air." 

At times the lofty whirligigs become what the 


desert men call sand augers. Slender in form, the 
sand auger is a column of dust rising thousands 
of feet into the air with a faint cloud of dust at 
the top and a slight spread at the base. Wherever 
it touches as it travels across the land there is a 
sudden stirring, a commotion of whatever is loose 
and easily moved, and while it is being watched 
the sand auger moves on across country and per- 
haps vanishes completely in a second or two. 

During such storms the dangers of being 
abroad increase. The scorching blast takes the 
lives of men even though they have full canteens. 

Sidney H. Ball, of the Geological Survey, re- 
marks that the Piute name for Death Valley is 
**Tomesha," meaning ''ground afire." Those 
Piutes have sometimes graphic descriptive 

Fog is one of the unexpected winter phenomena 
of the valley. One writing of it tells of being on 
the mountain when the valley was fog-filled from 
floor to rim-top. Moving white clouds rolled 
about, raised, lowered, divided, into vast chasms 
and reunited, at times disclosing narrow sections 
of mountain or valley, at times resembling a vast 


It might be supposed that such forbidding 
natural conditions as exist in Death Valley would 
preclude possibility of much variety of animal or 
vegetable life. It is therefore surprising to learn 
that at least 136 different varieties of plant life 
have been listed. Eighty-eight of these are arid 


flora ; the rest are classed as marsh plants. The 
latter includes two kinds of trees, six shrubs, 
eight annuals and thirty-two perennials. These 
are found where there is a fairly abundant water 
supply. It is of course to be understood that in 
the saline beds there is no plant life of any kind. 

The standby tree of the desert is the mesquite. 
It flourishes where water is abundant, and may 
also be found where water is many feet below the 
surface. It sometimes attains a trunk thickness 
of eight inches or more, though its usual appear- 
ance in Death Valley is that of a great bush. It 
bears a bean-filled pod, on which animals will 
'browse and which are not without value as sus- 
tenace for human beings. It is thorny and spread- 
ing, and like many other trees when neglected 
usually grows a closely set mass of stems. About 
such groups the sandstorms pile up dunes, some- 
times completely covering and smothering the 
tree. The roots spread nearly as much as the 
tops, and make better fuel. When a desert resi- 
dent wants wood, he may get it with a shovel, by 
digging instead of chopping. It is said that as 
much as five or six cords of wood have been dug 
out of a single mesquite mound. 

The yucca, familiar on western deserts, seldom 
appears in Death Valley though found in the arid 
country in every direction from there. 

Arrow^^eed, one of the reliances of the Indians, 
grows in wet places, to a height of six feet or 
more. Greasewood, creosote and other desert 
bushes are found. 

A little round gourd is found in some of the 


canyons. ' ' Desert apple " it is called, but its thin 
meat contains little hint of the fruit for which 
it was named. 

The plants listed as time arid flora, growing 
away from any water except the scant and in- 
frequent rains, include fifty annuals, twenty 
shrubs, eighteen perennials. The latter include 
three kinds of grass, retaining some vitality the 
year round. A very few of these species are not 
found anywhere except in Death Valley. All are 
stunted and of a color in keeping with the harsh 
surroundings, during nearly all of the year. There 
is a short period in the early part of the year 
when parts of the surface between the hills and 
the marshes are golden with flowers, which soon 
succumb to the increasing heat. Many colors are 
seen there and on the slopes and hillsides, living 
their brief span before the sun withers away all 
evidence of their having been. 

The marshes are not alone in being without 
vegetation. There are occasional stretches of sand 
as bare as a floor. In still other places the sur- 
face is covered with small flat rocks, whose dark 
colors are believed to be the result of intense heat 
and light during a long period. The chance for 
plant life there is much the same as it would be 
on a sheet of iron. 

The animal kingdom is represented by no less 
than 150 forms, varieties and species — this with- 
out counting the jackasses which roam the hills 
by hundreds. They are the progeny of escaped 
or abandoned animals. 

Mountain sheep are the largest game in the 


'bordering mountains, which are among the chief 
habitats of those now rare animals. E'or years 
they were one of the reliances of the Indians, and 
annual slaughters were the rule. Thirty are said 
to have been killed near Furnace Creek in one 
year, as the culmination of an extensive Indian 
campaign. They travel well worn trails, across 
which the Indians build low stone walls as 
blinds. The sheep do not look up while eating, 
but when alarmed they run to the highest points, 
a trait which Lo turns to his advantage. The sheep 
campaign of 1891, mentioned above, was preceded 
by such preparations in the way of blind-building 
that the few whites thereabouts concluded that 
the walls were for the purpose of guarding min- 
eral deposits of great value. It developed that 
feed and not fighting was the purpose. 

Waterfowl, migrating to and from far-off 
haunts, frequently tarry briefly at the little pools. 
Geese, swan and ducks are among the visitors. 
Their rests in the crystallizing vats at the old 
borax works sometimes brought them to grief, 
for on cold nights they became so weighted down 
with crystals that they could not fly. 

"Bellerin" Teck's planting of quail at Furnace 
Creek throve, and those beautiful birds became 
acclimated to the conditions of the little oasis, and 
withstand the fearful summers. 

Bats abound in some sections, and one of the 
observations of Dr. S. G. George, heretofore 
quoted, comments on the quantities of bat guano 
accumulated in such places. Badgers, gophers, 
skunks, foxes, coyotes, snakes, bugs of different 


kinds, flies and gnats are among the things found. 
A special variety of mouse exists there. The trade 
rat is found in Death Valley as well as elsewhere 
in the West. This little animal has a certain 
standard of honesty ; he will carry off articles that 
he can handle, but will invariably replace them 
with something else. A camper left a box of 
dried fniit open during his absence; when next 
examined, the fruit was gone, and in its place 
was an assortment of chips. Another found that 
his collection of matches had been replaced by 
pebbles. Once a box of cartridges was emptied 
by rats, and something else substituted; the 
cartridges had been carried into a temporarily 
unused stove, where they would have provided a 
surprise for the owner but for his accidental dis- 
covery of them. It seems that frequently, as in 
this case, Mr. Rat had no particular use for the 
goods ; he merely wanted to keep busy. There is 
a kangaroo rat, but whether identical with the 
trade rat is something no desert man has been able 
to tell us. The kangaroo rat has a body four to 
six inches long, and with a stout tail serving the 
same purpose as that of the Australian mammal 
for which the little beast is named. The animals 
show little fear of man, sometimes eating from 
the hand if given the opportunity. 

Tarantulas and rattlesnakes are plentiful 
enough, and may make themselves disagreeably 
familiar around camp, getting into bedding or 
other places where they are not desired. The 
chief desert rattlesnake, and the most vicious, is 
the sidewinder, a reptile from twelve to eighteen 


inches long. A former freight driver tells of 
seeing them in balls ten to twelve inches in 
diameter. It takes several snakes of whiplash 
size to make a mass of that size. In traveling the 
sidewinder goes with the snake motion, but with 
half their length in the air and weaving from side 
to side. 

A little desert terrapin is also found. Com- 
mon lizards reach comparatively huge proportions 
in those surroundings. Specimens fifteen or six- 
teen inches long are reported. The most unique 
form of the family is the chuckwallah — chawalla 
in Indian. It is a lizard, heavy-bodied, fat and 
stumpy as to tail, and weighing up to three 
pounds or more. They are said to be good eat- 
ing — the writer takes this statement on faith. 
Casual visitors will no doubt prefer bacon; still 
many desert people learn to like chuckwallah 
meat. The Indians are less squeamish about de- 
tails, and roast the reptiles just as caught, 
feathers and all. 

The adjacent mountains contain many song 
birds, and great numbers of mocking birds. A 
Death Valleyan relates that one year the water 
holes in a certain part of that country dried up. 
One morning a miner found a dozen or more 
young mocking birds helping themselves from his 
water supply. He filled a tin with water and gave 
it to them. Every morning thereafter for weeks 
they came, perched upon the bed or table, and 
coaxed for water, showing not the least fear. On 
another occasion a returning miner found a moun- 
tain swift in his bean pot, making a meal. He 


tossed a stone in its direction ; it jumped out and 
to one side, looked fearlessly at the man, and 
then back into the pot. It was allowed to finish its 



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